NARB Recommends Colgate Halt ‘10 Years of Yellow Stains’ Claim for Optic White Renewal Toothpaste

Advertising Law

A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), which hears appeals from the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs, has recommended that Colgate-Palmolive Company discontinue the claim that Colgate Optic White Renewal toothpaste “removes 10 years of yellow stains” based on its determination that the claim was not properly substantiated.

This and other claims were challenged before the NAD by The Procter & Gamble Company (P&G), which makes competing whitening toothpastes. The NAD found the claims “unprecedented whitening power,” “contains 3% hydrogen peroxide” and “the most hydrogen peroxide in a whitening toothpaste” to be unsubstantiated. Colgate appealed the NAD’s decision recommending that the claim “removes 10 years of yellow stains” be discontinued.

Colgate primarily relied on three studies to support the claim: (i) the “Sullivan Study,” which was research sponsored by Colgate and published in the Journal of Dentistry in 2019; (ii) the “McKenzie Study,” described in a one-half-page undated abstract presented at a professional conference in 2019; and (iii) an unpublished “Clinical Study” conducted by Colgate in 2018.

The panel focused first on Colgate’s Clinical Study, concluding that because of the exclusion of individuals who had used other whitening products within the prior year and those who had had a dental cleaning within 30 days before, the study did not test one likely portion of the target population for Optic White Renewal toothpaste.

The panel also concluded that the Clinical Study results should not have been determined by a comparison with baseline scores, but rather by a comparison to the results in a properly constructed control cell. The panel accepted P&G’s criticisms that factors such as tongue position, lip position and the nature of the ambient light could all impact the measurements. The panel stated that any bias, or “noise,” from those factors could be minimized by the use of a control using comparable test conditions.

The panel agreed with the NAD that the abstract of the McKenzie Study did not provide sufficient information to allow for a proper evaluation of the study methodology. The panel further found there was not a good fit between the McKenzie Study and the Clinical Study.

The NAD accepted as valid the Sullivan Study and Colgate’s use of a newly developed index, referred to as the “YIO index,” to measure the degree of perceived yellowness of teeth. This index was used in the Clinical Study, but the panel agreed with the NAD that the Clinical Study did not properly support the claim.

In its advertiser’s statement, Colgate stated that it strongly disagreed with the NARB decision, but would discontinue its use of the challenged “removes 10 years of yellow stains” claim.

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