BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends P&G Discontinue ‘4=1’ Claims for Febreze Plug-In Air Fresheners

New York, NY – July 27, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that the Procter & Gamble Company discontinue claims that “4 = 1” and “Why buy 4?,” featured in advertising for the company’s Plug-In Air Fresheners. The claims were challenged by the Reckitt Benckiser LLC, a competing maker of air freshener products.

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

In this case, P&G argued that the challenged claims, “4 = 1” and “Why buy 4?,”  together with the disclosure, “Up to 4x the freshness intensity of the leading generic brand,” communicated the supported message that Febreze provides four times the freshness intensity of the leading generic brand.

The challenger disagreed and argued that at least one message reasonably communicated by the challenged claims is that the Febreze product will last four times longer and provide more value than competing products.

NAD noted in its decision that plug-in air-fresheners are designed to provide continuous fragrance.  As a result, it would be reasonable for a consumer to take away a longevity message – for example, that the Febreze plug-in air freshener will last four times as long as the generic plug-in air fresheners depicted in P&G’s advertising.

NAD next turned to whether the disclosure, “Up to 4x the freshness intensity of the leading generic brand” was sufficient to limit the challenged claims.  NAD determined that disclosing that the claim is for fragrance strength contradicts this main message.  To the extent that the advertiser wants to make a claim about fragrance strength or intensity, the claim itself should refer to strength of fragrance.  Further, NAD was concerned that the disclosure, “up to 4x the freshness intensity,” is confusing.  Freshness can refer to either the strength of fragrance or the type of fragrance.   The claim that a product provides more “freshness” may not communicate that it provides more “fragrance.”

For all of the foregoing reasons, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims “Why buy 4” and “4 = 1.”

NAD noted that nothing in its decision prevents the advertiser from making a claim that it has a stronger scent than competing plug-in air fresheners to the extent it can support such a claim.

NAD also considered P&G’s use of shelf talkers to compare the leading generic brands in retail stores where the brands cannot be sold.  The generic brands that form the basis of the comparison are private-label store brands sold at Walmart or Dollar General and the shelf talkers at issue appeared in stores that cannot sell the private-label generic products.

Shelf talkers engage with consumers at point-of-purchase by drawing their attention to certain aspects of the products which appear on the shelves in close proximity to the shelf talker. Given the facts of this case, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue using shelf talkers in stores where the objects of comparison cannot be sold.

Although Procter & Gamble took issue with certain of NAD’s findings, the company said it “agrees to comply with NAD’s decision.”

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.