P&G and Unilever lock horns over US deodorant advertising

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

P&G and Unilever lock horns over US deodorant advertising
The National Advertising Division recommends that Procter & Gamble discontinue certain claims for its Secret Clinical Strength deodorant products, particularly claims of “100% odor protection,” after Unilever made a complaint.

The US watchdog has taken action after complaints were made by their competitor over certain claims for Secret Clinical Strength Clear Gel and Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Solid that included:

  • “100% odor protection” for products labeled with a “48 hour odor protection” claim.
  • “100% odor protection* *as typically noticed by others.”
  • “#100% or Nothing”

The advertising in question depicts a young executive preparing for an important meeting and the voiceover stated: “The day of my first presentation I was 80% nervous to lead the meeting, 90% confident I’d say the right things, but with 100% odor protection, I knew I had nothing to worry about.”

Text then appears on screen citing the figures mentioned, before the 100% claim is made again in voiceover and text. There is also a disclaimer at the bottom of the screen for these claims sayins ‘as typically noticed by others.’

Unilever argues that the claim was a strong quantified performance claim that should be read in conjunction with the ‘48 hour protection’ claim on the packaging, contending that P&G’s claim conveyed the message that no person using the product would emit any underarm malodor for two full days.

"100% odor protection" claim used colloquially

In response, the Ohio-based firm argues that the ‘100% odor protection’ claim as presented was used colloquially, in the context of a play on percentages in its television commercial and advertising campaign.

Neither party was able to provide consumer perception evidence to support its position regarding consumers interpretion, so the NAD determined that the claim conveyed a message of ‘objective certainty,’ and that consumers could quite reasonably understand the claim to mean that they would not emit any underarm odor when using the product.

With this in mind and even with the disclaimer NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

In its review of P&G’s evidence, NAD did however, note that the testing demonstrated the high level of overall effectiveness of Secret Clinical Strength, despite not being enough to substantiate the claim.

P&G, in its advertiser’s statement, said that although the company “does not agree with all of NAD’s conclusions, it is pleased that NAD generally recognizes the product’s superior efficacy, and P&G will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.” 

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Packaging

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