BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends P&G Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘Olay Sensitive Body Wash’ Following Unilever Challenge

New York, NY – Sept. 11, 2014  – The National Advertising Division has recommended that The Procter & Gamble Company, the maker of Olay Sensitive Body Wash, discontinue claims that convey the unsupported message that Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, a competing product made Unilever United States, Inc., is “harsh.” Further, NAD recommended that P&G modify claims that Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash can dry one’s skin over time.

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

Unilever challenged express and implied comparative performance claims made by P&G in Internet and print advertising. Claims at issue included:

  • “Unlike Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash, which actually dries out your skin over time, new Olay Sensitive Body Wash gives your skin the moisture it deserves.  So say goodbye to harsher body wash and hello to gentler, moisturizing Olay Sensitive Body Wash.”
  • “Go from ehhh to ahhh with new Olay Sensitive Body Wash…Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash dries out skin over time.”

NAD also considered whether the claims at issue implied that:

  • Dove Sensitive Skin users prefer Olay Sensitive over Dove Sensitive Skin and are switching to Olay Sensitive because they feel Dove Sensitive Skin is drying their skin.
  • Dove Sensitive Skin is harsh, i.e., abrasive, and will cause noticeable damage to the skin.
  • Over time, Dove Sensitive Skin removes significant moisture from the skin and causes noticeable dry skin. 

NAD and the National Advertising Review Board – appellate unit of the self-regulatory system – recently addressed unqualified comparative “harshness” claims in a separate, earlier case where a body wash maker used the image of barbed wire to illustrate the harshness of competing products.

NAD recommended that advertiser discontinue the claims, and the NARB affirmed NAD’s decision in its entirety.  The NARB concluded that “[t]he fact that other body washes are less mild … does not mean they are ‘harsh,’ as that term will reasonably be understood by consumers,” namely “that some competing body washes are abrasive and/or will cause noticeable damage to the skin.”

In this case, said NAD, the claims and visual were more muted, but the same principles apply: “Even if the evidence in the record demonstrates that Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash is more drying than a water control, that does not provide a reasonable basis for a claim that Dove Sensitive Skin is ‘harsh’ or significantly ‘harsher’ than Olay Sensitive Body wash.”

In support of the challenged claims that Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash dries out one’s skin over time, the advertiser submitted its independent “leg controlled application test”  (LCAT) of subjects with dry skin.

During the 12-day test phase, Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash and Olay Sensitive were tested against a water control and corneometer readings were taken at certain time points.

The results indicated that Dove Sensitive Skin was directionally more drying than water at most of the reported time points and statistically significantly more drying than water only at the last time point of the study.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “So say goodbye to harsher body wash and hello to gentler, moisturizing Olay Sensitive Body Wash”  and avoid conveying the unsupported message that Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash is “harsh.”  NAD further recommended that the advertiser modify its claim that “Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash dries out your skin over time” to more accurately reflect the LCAT results.

Finally, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to avoid conveying the unsupported messages that consumers who use Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash will have noticeably drier skin with continued use and that consumers will perceive the drying effect of Dove Sensitive Skin Body Wash upon contact.

P&G, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.