The challenged claims appeared on the product website and Facebook page and on its YouTube channel, and were made by the competitor over complaints that it depicted competing body washes as harsh and damaging to the skin.
The case was referred to NARB after Unilever appealed against the original decision made by the National Advertising Division, which recommended that Unilever discontinue the challenged claims and imagery as they suggested that Henkel’s Dial body washes can inflict serious damage on skin and, at the close of its review.
Following its review of the advertising, the NARB determined that labeling other body washes as ‘harsh,’ in the context of the challenged advertisements, reasonably conveyed a message that some competing body washes are abrasive and/or will cause noticeable damage to the skin.
The panel of five noted that testing conducted by Unilever, which compared the mildness of its product to a representative sample of competing body washes, showed that Dove’s was milder than most body washes but did not indicate that the less mild body washes were ‘harsh.’
Some of the challenged advertisements displayed a competing body wash container surrounded by barbed wire.
The images, the panel found, overstated the actual differences in mildness between Dove Deep Moisture and competing products and reinforced the message that competing body washes can cause noticeable damage to the skin.
Regarding moisturization claims, the panel noted that Unilever primarily relied on Leg Controlled Application Technique testing to determine relative moisturization potential. The LCAT test methodology called for two daily wash sessions conducted 3-4 hours apart.
However, the record showed that the vast majority of consumers take no more than one shower each day, indicating that the LCAT test was conducted under conditions that did not represent ordinary consumer use of body wash.
Following its review, the panel recommended that Unilever discontinue claims that competing body washes are ‘harsh’, and also recommended that Unilever discontinue use of barbed wire and steel wool images with respect to competing body washes.
Unilever, in its advertiser's statement, said the company "appreciated the opportunity to present its position to the National Advertising Review Board. While Unilever is disappointed in the panel's decision, it respects the self-regulatory process and will take the panel's decision into consideration in future advertising."