NAD Recommends P&G Discontinue Demonstration That Implies an Unsubstantiated Performance Claim

The National Advertising Division (NAD) recently reviewed advertising for P&G’s dishwasher detergent, Cascade Platinum. The television commercial depicts two pans with baked on brownie residue. One pan is washed with Cascade Platinum and the other is washed with a product that resembles the challenger’s Finish All In One Powerball. While the dishes are being washed a voiceover states that Cascade Platinum “powers through your toughest messes better than the competition, the first time.” The pan washed with Cascade Platinum comes clean, while the pan washed with the competing product still shows a substantial amount of food residue remaining.

The challenger took issue with the express comparative claim in the voiceover, and also asserted the visual demonstration made an unsubstantiated implied claim that Cascade Platinum is superior in overall cleaning performance with respect to a variety of tough soils. The NAD found that the express comparative performance claim was substantiated by the testing submitted by P&G. Addressing the challengers criticisms of the testing, the NAD concluded that the testing sufficiently accounted for consumers’ actual usage and rejected the challenger’s assertion that P&G’s test was a torture test that used unrealistically soiled dishes. The NAD reasoned that consumers’ baking outcomes vary and some consumers overcook brownies, leaving a toughened residue akin to the residue used in P&G’s testing. The NAD also disagreed that using a low dishwasher setting during testing was a material flaw, based on evidence submitted by P&G indicated that consumers frequently use low settings even when tackling toughened soils on dishware.

However, the NAD recommended that P&G discontinue use of the brownie demonstration even though the demonstration was an accurate portrayal of one test conducted by P&G because the NAD concluded that the demonstration could be reasonably understood as illustrating the two products’ comparative cleaning capabilities on the “toughest messes” generally, not just with respect to baked on brownie residue.

TIP: Advertisers are responsible for substantiating both express and implied comparative performance claims, and should keep in mind that a combining an express performance claim with a visual demonstration may lead consumers to take away an unintended implied claim.