BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Farnam Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Flea, Tick Control Product

New York, NY – Nov. 15, 2012 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Farnam Pet Products modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for its Adams Flea & Tick Spot On for Dogs, including claims that the product “starts to kill fleas and ticks in 15 minutes.” However, NAD determined that the company provided sufficient support for certain claims related to the product’s applicator.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The claims at issue were challenged before NAD by FidoPharm, a subsidiary of Velcera, Inc. and maker of PetArmor, a competing product.

The challenger noted by way of background that both Adams and PetArmor are topically-administered pesticide solutions that, when administered every 30 days as directed, control fleas and ticks on dogs all year round.

The active ingredients in Adams is etofenprox, which kills fleas and ticks, (S)-methoprene, an insect growth regulator (“IGR”) that kills flea eggs by preventing them from hatching and flea larvae by preventing them from molting, and piperonyl butoxide, an insecticide synergist.
The active ingredient in PetArmor is fipronil, which also kills fleas and ticks. There are many other topical flea and tick killers on the market which contain various combinations of active ingredients, including the advertiser’s Bio Spot, all of which are pesticides regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The advertiser argued that because the EPA approved the claim “starts to kill fleas and ticks in 15 minutes,” NAD should decline to exercise jurisdiction and defer to EPA’s expertise in reviewing the underlying scientific basis and approving each of them.
NAD noted in its decision, however, that in “determining whether to defer to a regulatory authority’s approval of claims, NAD considers the difference between the ‘approved’ claim and the challenged claim in express language, the context in which it appears, and the very significant differences between what was approved and the consumer advertisement in which the claim appears.”

“Deference to regulatory authority ‘is not automatic, and it never completely replaces the obligation of the self-regulation system to exercise its own sound discretion.’”

In this case, NAD determined that the advertiser’s evidence demonstrated that Adams reaches full efficacy seven days after application and “starts to kill fleas and ticks in 15 minutes” after infestation on day 7 post-treatment.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue its claim that Adams, “starts killing fleas and ticks in 15 minutes” or modify the claim to disclose the amount of time needed for Adams to reach full efficacy.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser modify broadcast advertising that depicted the product working in 15 minutes. NAD further concluded that the advertiser’s evidence (testing on fleas on two cats and no testing on ticks) was insufficient to support its comparative claim that PetArmor takes “8 times longer” to kill fleas and ticks on dogs than the Adams product. NAD recommended that the claim and a visual of side-by-side scratching dogs be discontinued.

NAD found that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for a stand-alone claim that that Adams Flea & Tick Spot on for Dogs is the only product to have the “Smart Shield Applicator” and that the applicator applies the product easily, cleanly and directly to the animal.

However, to the extent that the advertiser wishes to tout the attributes of its Smart Shield Applicator, NAD recommended that it do so in a manner that avoids implying that competitive products are difficult to apply, are likely to squirt the pesticide on the owner rather than the dog, or fail to deliver the pesticide directly to the animal’s skin as intended.

Farnam, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “maintains that its core claim: ‘starts to kill fleas and ticks within 15 minutes’ was expressly approved by the EPA without limitation or condition, and that its advertisements do not reasonably convey the messages determined by the NAD … .”
However, the company said, it will “take the NAD’s recommendations into account in an appropriate way when crafting future advertising. Farnam will also discontinue its comparative “8 times longer” claims.”