Oral Healthcare Division
The National Advertising Division has recommended that Philips Oral Healthcare, LLC, discontinue two broadcast commercials for the company’s Sonicare brand electric toothbrushes, following a challenge from the Procter & Gamble Company, maker of Oral-B electric toothbrushes.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
The challenger took issue with two broadcast commercials – “Innovative Technology” (which was revised during the course of NAD’s review) and “Most Loved.” Challenged claims included:
- Sonicare FlexCare Platinum toothbrushes provide “healthier gums in two weeks” vs. Oral-B Professional Care 5000;
- A greater number of “brush movements” vs. Oral-B Professional Care 5000 provides “healthier gums in two weeks”;
- “Philips Sonicare [is] the most loved electric toothbrush brand by Americans and their dentists”;
- “The most loved toothbrush in America* (*rechargeable)”;
- Philips Sonicare is most loved “because it leaves your mouth with a level of clean like you’ve never felt before.”
- Sonicare provides a 27% superior cleaning/superior health benefit to Oral-B Professional Care 5000;
- Sonicare toothbrushes are “most loved” because they provide healthier gums/superior cleaning ability than do competing electric toothbrush brands, including Oral-B;
- Sonicare toothbrushes provide superior cleaning, however measured, versus all competing electric toothbrush brands, including Oral-B.
Key to this decision was NAD’s analyses of the claims conveyed by the advertising. NAD has long held that an advertiser is responsible for all reasonable interpretations of its claims. In determining the messages reasonably conveyed by a particular advertisement and in the absence of consumer perception evidence, NAD independently examines the totality or overall net impression created by an advertisement as a whole. As NAD has noted in prior cases, “consumers do not parse components of a commercial to determine the messages conveyed. Rather consumers view an advertisement in a more fleeting fashion and take away a net impression.”
Following its review, NAD determined that the challenged advertisements reasonably conveyed the unsupported messages that Sonicare provides better cleaning and healthier gums than Oral-B.
NAD found that both the original and revised Innovative Technology commercials conveyed the message that Sonicare FlexCare cleans teeth better than Oral-B PC 5000, produces healthier gums in two weeks than Oral-B PC 5000 and provides cleaner teeth and healthier gums over Oral-B PC 5000 because of its 27% more brush movements. NAD further determined that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for these claims and recommended that the Innovative Technology commercials be discontinued.
Regarding the Most Loved commercial, NAD determined that the commercial reasonably conveyed the unsupported messages that Sonicare cleans teeth better than other electric toothbrushes, produces healthier gums in two weeks than other electric toothbrushes, and provides an oral health benefit because of the product’s 62, 000 brush movements. Further, NAD determined that the commercial conveyed the unsupported messages that Sonicare is the most loved electric toothbrush brand because it cleans better than other electric toothbrushes and because it delivers healthier gums in two weeks than other electric toothbrushes. NAD concluded that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for the claims and recommended the commercial be discontinued.
NAD determined that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis to support the claims that Sonicare provides healthier gums compared to a manual toothbrush and that Sonicare has a greater number of brush movements over Oral-B, but cautioned the advertiser that any such claims be accurate, not tied to an unsupported oral health performance attribute, and adequately clarify the basis of the comparison.
Finally, NAD determined that the claim “most loved rechargeable toothbrush brand in America, ” as it appears in the particular context of the Innovative Technology commercials, was puffery and need not be substantiated. However, NAD determined that the “most loved electric toothbrush brand by Americans and their dentists” claim, in the context of a commercial that offered the reasons, “level of clean” and “healthier gums in two weeks, ” was not puffery and rather was an objectively provable claim. Given the absence of support, NAD recommended that the “most loved” claim, as it appears in the context of the Most Loved commercial, be discontinued.
Philips Oral Healthcare said in its advertiser’s statement that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.”
Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.