NARB Recommends P&G Discontinue Claim That Tide Purclean Has ‘4x Cleaning Power’

Advertising Law

A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Procter & Gamble (P&G) discontinue the claim that Tide purclean laundry detergent has “4x the cleaning power” of the leading plant-based detergent, Purex Natural Elements. Tide purclean is a plant-based laundry detergent. This claim and others had been challenged by a competitor, Seventh Generation Company, before the National Advertising Division (NAD). P&G appealed the NAD’s recommendation that it discontinue the “4x Cleaning Power” claim.

The NARB panel determined that the claim was not supported because the “4x the cleaning power” claim is ambiguous and could communicate several messages to reasonable consumers, for which P&G offered no support. The panel agreed with the challenger that reasonable interpretations of the claim which were not supported include: (i) Tide purclean contains four times the amount of active cleaning ingredient; (ii) one dose of Tide purclean gets clothes four times cleaner than does one dose of Purex Natural Elements; and (iii) Tide purclean needs only one cleaning cycle to clean as effectively as four cleaning cycles with Purex Natural Elements.

The panel also considered the sufficiency of the disclaimers used by P&G on the Tide purclean package and website and concluded that they do not clear up the confusing nature of the 4x comparison. The panel noted that the disclaimer on the package “appears on the reverse side of the package, and for that reason is not likely to be noticed by consumers.” The panel concluded that even if that disclaimer were conspicuous (for example, on the front of the package immediately below the 4x comparison), “it would still not provide sufficient information to clear up the ambiguities in the ‘4x the cleaning power of’ portion of the claim.” The disclaimer states “1 dose Tide purclean vs. 4 doses leading natural detergent.”

To support the “4x Cleaning Power” claim, P&G conducted a test using ASTM guidelines. P&G tested one dose of Tide purclean versus four doses of Purex Natural Elements. Seventh Generation took issue with the dosing protocol of the test, arguing that using four doses for a load of laundry is not consumer relevant. The NARB panel agreed with Seventh Generation. The panel concluded that P&G failed to establish the consumer relevance of the 4x comparison because its consumer research did not show how often consumers who either use, or are interested in using, plant-based detergents would likely use a quadruple dose. The panel also agreed with the challenger’s argument that P&G’s testing data did not comply with ASTM standards by departing in a material way from the recommended usage of the compared-to detergent, without a sufficient justification for this departure.

Therefore, the panel found that the results of P&G’s ASTM testing did not provide proper substantiation for its 4x comparison and recommended that the claim be discontinued. In its advertiser’s statement, P&G stated that it would comply with the decision.

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