In the TV advert comedian Johnny Vegas and PG Tips' puppet monkey mascot claim: "PG Tips uses pyramid bags, so if we test one against a regular tea bag [...] you'll see the tea has got more room to move, freeing the great fresh taste for a perfect cuppa."
Tetley owner Tata Global Beverages said PG Tips owner Unilever's assertion that “there's no other tea to beat PG” as well as the visual demonstration of the comparison was “misleading and exaggerated the capability and performance of the advertised product”. The tea rival also objected to the inclusion of a comparative round teabag, which it said portrayed Tetley in a negative light since they were an “identifiable competitor” that used this shape.
However, ASA upheld none of the three complaints, concluding instead that Unilever had performed tests to substantiate its claims that pyramid bags were more effective in tea circulation.
The advertising body added: “We understood that several brands of teabags on the market were round in shape. While a large portion of round teabags were owned by Tetley, we considered that consumers would not immediately identify a round teabag as being a Tetley teabag.”
A storm in a teacup?
Unilever said that it did not believe the advert was making a direct comparison with Tetley since no other tea brand was mentioned by name or shown. The firm also noted that Tetley also owned a pyramid-shaped teabag range.
Responding to the complaint that consumers would take the round teabag to refer to Tetley by default, Unilever said 30.8% of regular teabags sold in the UK were round.
“[Unilever] said it did a comparison with the round shape because it had the largest share of the market. It pointed out that the voice-over referred to the 'regular teabag', which emphasised it as the most commonly bought shape. It said, although Tetley represented 50% of the 30.8% round teabag market, it did not consider the round teabag to be identifiable as Tetley,” ASA wrote in the ruling.
The company said the line "freeing the great fresh taste for a perfect cuppa" did not “expressly refer to the superiority of taste” and was instead intended to refer to taste only on the merit that more room for the tea to move meant taste infused more easily.
A tea off
ASA said Unilever’s claims were backed by the results of a test it had conducted on the impact of different-shaped teabags with the same kind and amount of tea (3.125 g) after 40 seconds and two minutes of brewing – two time lengths selected as the average amounts of time consumers brewed their tea for.
Unilever added that the majority of consumers brewed their tea to colour, making this an important factor.