BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends McNeil Modify Disclosures In Zyrtec Broadcast Ads

New York, New York – Dec. 15,  2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that McNeil Consumer Health Care modify an onset-of-action claim for Zyrtec allergy medication to assure consumers understand the basis and limitations of the claim.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast advertising claims for Zyrtec following a challenge by Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Inc., the maker of Claritin, a competing allergy medicine. 

The following claims formed the basis of NAD’s inquiry:

  • A dose of Zyrtec starts working or starts relieving allergies two hours faster than Claritin regardless of whether it is the first dose in a multi-day treatment period or a subsequent dose.
  • Zyrtec provides “fast” relief.

NAD noted in its decision that both parties relied on studies that were considered by NAD in a previous Zyrtec matter, as well as consumer perception evidence regarding the “2 hours faster” claim.

In the previous decision, NAD recommended that the claims at issue be modified to “make clear that the faster onset of action is as to the first dose only and that it takes one hour for Zyrtec to start working,” and, in a subsequent compliance proceeding, further recommended  that the advertiser should make clear that the first dose is on the first day of a two-day  study.

NAD asserted that it would not revisit the science analyzed or the conclusion reached in the previous matter.  Rather, the question before NAD was whether consumers who viewed two commercials for Zyrtec clearly understood that the “2 hours faster” claim was limited to the first dose of the first day of a two-day study. 

The commercials featured actors who were reunited with their favorite sporting equipment (a bicycle and a fishing pole) after taking Zyrtec for the allergies that had curtailed their biking and fishing activities.  NAD was concerned with whether consumers were able to read and understand the super that accompanies the two hours faster claim.

While NAD did not ultimately rely on the consumer perception evidence in the record, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to ensure that the references to onset of action at one hour for Zyrtec and three hours for Claritin are stated in close proximity to the 2 hours faster claim that appears onscreen or in a voiceover to make clearer the basis of the comparison, though the remaining limitations of the claim that advise consumers that the 2 hours faster claim applies only to the first dose on the first day of a two-day study should continue to appear. 

NAD further determined that a “fast relief claim” in a stand alone context should be qualified to state that Zyrtec starts working in an hour.

In its advertiser’s statement, McNeil said that while it disagreed with NAD’s recommendations, it would take them into account in future advertising.