J&J not so lucky to escape Authority wrath over mouthwash ad

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dental plaque Periodontitis

J&J not so lucky to escape Authority wrath over mouthwash ad
An advert for the global personal care player’s Listerine mouthwash has been ruled by the Advertising Standards Authority as inappropriate for broadcasting due to its misleading nature.

The radio ad in question features someone asking, "So sir are you ready to order​?"  To which a man replies, "Yeah I'll get the crispy duck to start and a few fingernails to nibble on. Two biros and a pencil, an envelope, garlic bread, a slice of cheesecake, oh and perhaps a bus ticket."

The following scenes include "And to drink?" "Red wine, a coffee, two teas one white, one black"​ and a voice-over stating, "It's amazing what your mouth goes through, and brushing alone isn't enough. Try the Listerine routine for 21 days and if you don't love how clean your mouth feels we'll give you your money back. Listerine Total Care. For total oral health."

The Authority received a complaint that challenged specifically whether the claim "brushing alone isn't enough​" was misleading and could be substantiated.


On contacting Johnson & Johnson on the matter, the ASA says the brand claimed that the ad could be substantiated and was not misleading.

They said that a 2009 survey of adult dental health, which they provided, showed that despite 75 percent of the population brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and a further 23 percent brushing once a day, there were still high incidences of oral health issues.”

Some evidence of periodontal disease was found in 83 percent of dentate adults, such as bleeding, calculus or periodontal pocketing and J&J said that optimal plaque control was required to prevent plaque accumulation leading to gingivitis (inflammation of the gum tissue), which could eventually lead to periodontitis.

Brand representatives also said that many long-term (6 month) studies had been carried out and demonstrated the efficacy of Listerine in reducing plaque bacteria compared with brushing alone, and that the claim was also linked to the limits of brushing as a liquid Listerine could get where brushing couldn't.


In this instance, the ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim "brushing alone isn't enough​" to mean that it was generally accepted within the dental community that brushing alone was not sufficient to maintain oral health, and that a mouthwash should also be used.

And that although the ad did refer to "how clean your mouth feels​" it did not consider this would be understood as qualifying the claim, and noted the ad also stated "for total oral health​".

J&J also supplied evidence which demonstrated that using Listerine could reduce plaque bacteria in comparison to brushing alone, and said that it contained ingredients that addressed key oral health concerns.

"However, although we understood that most oral health advice emphasized the importance of cleaning in between teeth in addition to brushing, we had not been provided with evidence that it was generally accepted within the dental community that the use of a mouthwash was necessary to maintain oral health. We therefore concluded the claim was misleading and had not been substantiated," ​concluded the ASA.

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