BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Continental Tire Modify Certain Advertising Claims To Avoid Conveying Inaccurate Message

New York, New York – Jan. 22,  2010 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Continental Tire North America, Inc., modify certain claims made in dealer-directed advertising for the company’s “ExtremeContact” brand tires. The advertising at issue was challenged by Michelin North America, a competing tire manufacturer.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined express and implied claims made in print advertising directed to tire dealers.

Express Claim:

  • “Performance … Better than Michelin*” (*based on internal testing of Continental’s ExtremeContact DWS and DW Tires versus Michelin’s Pilot Sport A/S Plus and Pilot Sports PS21 tires, respectively)

Implied Claim:

  • The Continental Tire product line offers superior performance in comparison to the Michelin Tire product line.

At the outset, the advertiser represented that the challenged print advertisement had been discontinued before NAD opened its inquiry. However, in the absence of the advertiser’s assurance that the comparative superior performance claim at issue would not be used again, NAD reviewed the claims and offered guidance for future advertising.

The featured the headline “Confidence” followed by the statement “Continental Tires are essential for success” and the following claims: “Tuned…for maximum sales”, “Performance…Better than Michelin Tires”*, and “Indicator…Extreme Profitability.”

In the center of the page are side-by-side depictions of the advertiser’s ExtremeContact DW tires  (for drivers seeking extreme grip in dry and wet conditions) and ExtremeContact DWS tire (for all-season drivers seeking extreme grip in dry, wet and snow conditions), and a corresponding graph of test results for each tire.

Each graph was accompanied by a disclosure that stated the information was based on Continental’s internal testing of its tire against a Michelin tire.

The advertisement also featured Continental’s logo, Website address and a toll-free number for dealers.

NAD noted in its decision that, where an advertisement makes general brand references that are not limited to the specific product depicted, it is likely to convey the message that the benefits or attributes promoted by the advertisement extend to the entire product line.   Following its review of the advertising at issue, NAD determined that the advertisement at issue could be interpreted as a line claim that compared the advertiser’s product line to the challenger’s product line.

NAD noted that that the headline “Confidence” is immediately followed by the unqualified claim, “Continental Tires are essential for success.”  The claim was not limited to the tires depicted and the placement of the statement at the top of page set the tone for an overall product line comparative message.  Further, NAD observed that the subsequent copy, “Tuned…for maximum sales”, “Performance…Better than Michelin Tires”*, and “Indicator…Extreme Profitability” was also unqualified.

Further, NAD determined that the disclosures that accompanied the graphs did adequately limit the claim “Performance…Better than Michelin Tires.”

Although NAD found that the advertiser substantiated comparative superior performance claims for the specific products and specific attributes tested, NAD recommended that the advertiser take greater measures to more narrowly limit similar claims in future advertising, both to avoid a line claim and to avoid the potential for consumer confusion.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser disclose more prominently that the information included in the graphs resulted from internal testing of the parties’ respective tires.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it would “implement the NAD’s recommendations in its future advertising efforts.”