Eighteen viewers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the Nurofen Joint and Back advert, saying that it misleadingly implied the product specifically targeted joint and back pain.
It comes as a MoneySavingExpert.com investigation found branded medication could cost eight times as much as a generic equivalent. See our report†Branded vs Generic: Cutting the cost of buying over-the-counter medicines for more information, and our 20 Medicine Savings guide.
The TV ad showed a woman as an anatomical image taking Nurofen Joint and Back, with it moving down her body and to her back.
The advert then showed shots of the woman going about her usual activities without any pain, interspersed with anatomical images of her back with a Nurofen symbol indicating where the pain relief was acting. A voiceover said: "Just a single dose of Nurofen Joint and Back provides you with constant targeted pain relief for up to eight hours".
RB UK Commercial, which owns the Nurofen brand, says the advert did not state or imply that the product specifically targeted back pain, and the Nurofen symbol in the images was shown travelling through the woman's body in a "swirling" manner rather than directly to the source of the pain.
But the ASA said the Nurofen symbol in the advert appeared to move down her digestive tract and to the source of pain, where it remained, pulsing, as she went about her usual daily activities.
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It said viewers were likely to understand that Nurofen Joint and Back was specifically designed to relieve back and joint pain, rather than pain generally.
The ASA says: "We also considered that viewers were likely to infer that the product had a special mechanism or contained an active ingredient which made it especially effective for back and joint pain in comparison to other painkillers".
While the product contained liquid ibuprofen, which meant it was absorbed more quickly than standard Nurofen, there was nothing in it to make the product target the source of pain in a user's back or joints.
The ASA adds: "Because the advert implied the product had a special mechanism which meant it specifically targeted back and joint pain, and was especially effective at relieving those sources of pain, when that was not the case, we concluded that it was misleading."
It ruled that the advert must not appear again in its current form.
RB UK Commercial says it was "disappointed" with the ruling.
It says: "Nurofen pain-specific products were introduced to provide easy navigation of pain-relief options for consumers experiencing a specific type of pain, particularly within the grocery environment where pharmacy support isn't available.
"Research has shown that nine in 10 people search for products to treat specific symptoms, such as joint and back pain, and seven in 10 say pain-specific packs help them decide which product is best for their needs."