NAD Recommends P&G Discontinue Claim that Olay “Improves Skin 3X Better” than Leading Body Wash

Advertising Law

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs has recommended that The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G) discontinue the claim that Olay Premium body wash “improves skin 3X better” than the leading body wash. The claim was challenged by Unilever United States, Inc. (Unilever), which makes the leading body wash, Dove Deep Moisture. The claim was made in television, digital and print advertising.

NAD found that one reasonable interpretation of the claim in each of the challenged ads is that Olay Premium body wash improves skin 3X better with regard to any one of the skin attributes mentioned in the ads, such as brightness, smoothness, radiance, hydration and wrinkles. NAD found that even when the 3X improvement claim is not featured with other skin attributes, the net impression is still general skin improvement. In addition, NAD found that the claim conveyed a message of comparative superiority versus Dove.

NAD determined that the disclosure “versus the leading body wash after 14 days, based on clinical moisture retention” in the advertising was not sufficient to qualify the takeaway of the claim “improves skin 3X better” to clinical moisture retention. NAD found that the disclosure was not clear and conspicuous. In addition, NAD found the language of the disclosure ambiguous. NAD stated that it is unclear whether average consumers understand the meaning of the term “clinical moisture retention.” One reasonable consumer takeaway is that the disclosure limits the claim to improved moisturization of skin, which NAD stated is not the same as clinical moisture retention.

To support the claim, P&G submitted a controlled, randomized, double-blinded Leg Controlled Application Test (LCAT). NAD stated that the LCAT is a well-accepted clinical method for in vivo testing of cleansing products. NAD found that P&G’s LCAT methodology is consumer relevant and tested an appropriate population.

Unilever critiqued the study for several reasons, including that it tested an old formulation of Dove and that it tested Olay Ultra Moisture body wash rather than the Olay Premium body wash featured in the ads. NAD rejected this critique, finding that there is no material difference between the old and new formulations of Dove, nor is there a relevant difference between the Olay Ultra Moisture body wash product tested and the Olay Premium body wash product featured in the ads.

However, NAD concluded that the LCAT study was not a good fit to support the claim that Olay Premium body wash “improves skin 3X better” than Dove Deep Moisture body wash, for two reasons.

First, NAD found that P&G’s calculation of the 3X ratio of improvement of Olay Ultra Moisture over Dove Deep Moisture is not accurate or consumer relevant. P&G’s 3X calculation was based on comparing the improvement of Olay Ultra Moisture with a water control versus the improvement of Dove Deep Moisture with a water control. Unilever’s expert argued that calculating the change from the water control and comparing that delta to calculate the 3X ratio inflates the quantified comparison. NAD agreed that using the comparison with the water control to calculate the 3X improvement ratio results in a higher ratio than directly comparing the performance of the products.

Second, P&G submitted only tests for moisture retention or moisturization, and therefore the LCAT results do not support the 3X improvement messages reasonably conveyed by the challenged advertisements that Olay Premium body wash improves skin 3X better than Dove body wash with respect to appearance, hydration, radiance and wrinkles.

For these reasons, NAD recommended that P&G discontinue the claim that Olay Premium body wash “improves skin 3X better” than the leading body wash.

In its advertiser statement, P&G stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations” and that it “remains a strong supporter of the industry self-regulatory process.”

Why It Matters

As discussed by NAD in the decision, it is well established that quantifiable superiority claims of product performance require precise substantiation relating directly to the formulation, application and measurable performance of the advertised product. It is also well established that test results, in addition to achieving statistical significance, should demonstrate that the results will be meaningful to consumers.

NAD found that P&G’s substantiation did not meet these standards for its 3X improvement claim. In NAD’s view, the problem was comparing each product with a water control and then comparing that difference to calculate the ratio. NAD stated that Unilever’s expert provided a helpful explanation regarding this:

Consider a simplified example with three treatments, A[,] B, and X (the basis of comparison), with mean scores of 96, 92, and 90 respectively. The difference between the means of A and X is 6, while the difference between the means of B and X is 2. To state that A is “3X better” than B because of the ratio of differences from X is 3 is entirely misleading because it ignores the magnitude of the underlying measures, i.e., how far each is from zero.

The NAD decision makes it clear that calculating a ratio for a quantifiable superiority claim requires precise calculations that are consumer meaningful.

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