BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Hill’s Modify, Discontinue Elements Of “Feeding Is Believing” Campaign, Following P&G Pet Care Challenge

New York, New York – Dec. 16,  2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Hill’s Pet Nutrition modify or discontinue certain claims related to the company’s “Feeding is Believing” advertising campaign. NAD found, however, that certain claims were supported.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined print, point-of purchase and Internet advertising claims made by Hill’s for its Science Diet Puppy and Kitten food products and Science Diet Light Pet dog and cat foods, following a challenge by P&G Pet Care, manufacturers of competing pet food products. 

Specifically, P&G Pet Care challenged consumer testimonials and before-and-after photographs included in the Science Diet “Feeding is Believing,” advertising campaign. The advertising campaign focused on the transformation of Angel, a dog, and Othello, a cat – both unhealthy strays – to healthy pets, and transition of a second cat and a second dog from overweight to a healthy weight following a Science Diet feeding regimen.

The challenger contended that information regarding the role of veterinary and other care and feeding was edited out of the consumer testimonials and that before-and-after photos could be interpreted by consumers to mean that the Science Diet products alone were responsible for the health transformations depicted.

Regarding the first phase of the campaign, NAD determined that edited accounts of Angel’s and Othello’s transformations failed to disclose material facts, including the role of veterinary care. NAD noted in its decision that as a result of the omissions the advertising conveyed the message that Science Diet puppy and kitten food products were solely responsible for the animals’ entire health transformations – including, for example, ridding the animals of mange and fleas – a message that was not supported by the evidence in the record.

Although the advertiser asserted that it has permanently discontinued the print advertisements that featured the edited version of Angel’s transformation, NAD recommended that the advertiser also discontinue any edited testimonials that appear on its Website.

NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the edited Othello testimonial included in a new pet owner guidebook – “It’s Not A Miracle, It’s the Power of Precise Nutrition” – to accurately reflect the other factors that contributed to Othello’s transformation.

However, NAD determined that the unedited account of Angel’s transformation, also included in the guidebook, accurately attributes Angels’ return to health to veterinary care and proper nutrition.

NAD determined that the before-and-after photographs of the animals, when accompanied by the edited versions of their owners’ testimonials, reinforced the unsupported message that Science Diet was solely responsible for their transformations and recommended that the advertiser discontinue use of the photos in combination with the edited testimonials. NAD found, however, that the advertiser had a reasonable basis for utilizing the before-and-after photos when accompanied by unedited testimonials.

The “Feeding is Believing” campaign also featured a “3-Bag Challenge” promotion, which rewarded consumers who purchased three bags of Hill’s Science Diet and included before-and-after pictures of the animals. NAD determined that the juxtaposition of the 3-Bag Challenge with the before-and-after pictures, both with and without the edited testimonials, conveyed the message that three bags of Science Diet were the sole reason for the health transformations. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue using the Angel and Othello before-and-after photographs and testimonials (edited or otherwise) in connection with the 3-Bag Challenge.

However, NAD found that use of the “after” photos only on the Website was not misleading in connection with the 3-Bag Challenge, since without the “before” pictures or the animals’ names, they appear only as examples of healthy pets.

Following its review, NAD determined that the weight-loss results depicted were in line with the results an average consumer could expect to achieve when feeding a pet Science Diet light as recommended on the packaging. However, NAD recommended that before-and-after photographs and testimonials regarding overweight animals clearly and conspicuously disclose the length of time it took for the animals to reach a healthy weight and that the testimonial regarding an overweight cat be modified to reflect the additional material circumstances surrounding the pet’s weight-loss.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that it “strongly supports the self-regulatory process, and it appreciates the diligence NAD has shown in reviewing this matter.  Accordingly, Hill’s will take NAD’s recommendations into account in its “Feeding is Believing” advertising.