BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Philips Oral Healthcare Modify Certain Claims for ‘Sonicare DiamondClean’ Toothbrush

New York, NY – Sept. 21, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that that Philips Oral Healthcare, Inc., modify certain advertising claims for the company’s Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush, following a challenge by The Procter & Gamble Company, maker of Oral-B oral health products.

Philips said it would appeal NAD’s recommendations to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB.) P&G, meanwhile, has filed a cross-appeal with NARB.

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

Claims at issue included:

  • “The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean with our best brush head gives you: “Up to 82% more plaque removal than Oral-B’s best brush head;”
  • “The Philips Sonicare DiamondClean with our best brush head gives you: Improved gum health up to 70% more than Oral-B’s best brush head.”

The parties in this challenge compete in the market for electric toothbrushes. NAD noted in its decision that while it is undisputed that the parties’ electric toothbrushes provide superior cleaning versus manual toothbrushes, the parties disagree as to which electric toothbrush provides the best results.

The advertiser’s comparative, quantified performance claims are at the center of the challenge and they promise that consumers will achieve up to 82 percent more plaque removal and an up to 70 percent greater improvement in gum health when brushing in deep clean mode and when they use the Sonicare DiamondClean toothbrush with its best brush head – the Premium Plaque control brush head – instead of the Oral-B 7000 toothbrush with its best brush head – the CrossAction brush head).

In addition, NAD considered a sound comparison and a “deep between teeth” claim featured in the challenged television commercial, and various other claims featured on a website directed towards dental professionals.

To support its gum health and plaque removal claims, the advertiser submitted the Starke Study.  The study’s objectives were to compare the effect of the Philips Sonicare DiamondClean plus Premium plaque control brush head with the Oral-B 7000 plus CrossAction brush head on gingivitis and supragingival plaque reduction following a 42-day period of home use.

The primary efficacy results were reported as a reduction and percent reduction in the Modified Gingival Index (MGI) and they showed that the Sonicare DiamondClean treatment group achieved a statistically significant improvement over the Oral-B 7000 subjects. The study’s proportion analysis also demonstrated a statistically significant advantage for the Sonicare DiamondClean over the Oral-B 7000.

NAD noted that the study was 284 subjects and was well-designed, randomized, examiner-blind, and showed normally distributed baselines for the Oral-B and Sonicare groups. Following its determination that the study was methodologically sound, NAD considered whether it was a good fit for the advertiser’s comparative claims.

As NAD noted in its decision, quantified performance claims “have a strong impact on consumers and should closely reflect the test results upon which they are based.  It is critical that these types of claims are adequately supported because they convey information that consumers are unable to evaluate for themselves. This is even more important when the quantified performance claims at issue promise consumers they can achieve a specific health-related result by using the advertised product.  Regardless of whether claims are quantified or not, such claims must carefully reflect their supporting evidence, especially for health-related claims.”

Following its review, NAD determined that the claims were not sufficiently tailored to the Starke Study. While the study’s stated objective was to compare the toothbrushes’ performance in subjects experiencing moderate gingivitis, NAD noted, the claims are directed to a general audience and are not directed in any way to individuals with moderate gingivitis.  To be considered competent and reliable for the purposes of claim support, the study population should be representative of the population to which the claim will be targeted.   Absent information regarding the representativeness of the study to the target audience, NAD could not determine whether a typical consumer would be likely to achieve the touted performance benefits.

NAD recommended that the challenged claims, based on the Starke study, should be expressly modified to make clear that the claimed benefits are limited to individuals with moderate gingivitis.

With respect to the “Exceptionally Fresh Feeling” commercial, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the voiceover to incorporate as part of the main claim the brush head, model and modes compared.

NAD found that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for the messages reasonably conveyed by the sound comparison in the “Exceptionally Fresh Feeling” commercial and found that the “deep between teeth” claim was supported.

Regarding the challenged website advertising, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the challenged establishment claims, which are based on the Starke study, to incorporate as part of those main claims the brush head, model and modes compared, as well as limit the claimed comparative benefits to individuals with moderate gingivitis. In addition, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the text accompanying the side-by-side comparison chart to clarify the models being compared and to avoid conveying an implied claim that the preceding establishment claims apply to the DiamondClean Smart and the Oral-B Genius 8000.

Regarding the chart on the website, NAD determined that the challenged claims do not reasonably imply claim that the Oral-B Genius does not offer multiple usage modes.   NAD also found that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claims that the Oral-B 8000 Genius does not come with a “deluxe travel case” or have a “built-in location sensor.”

Philips, in its advertiser’s statement, said that it respectfully disagrees with NAD’s recommendations that claims based on the Starke Study should be limited to individuals with moderate gingivitis and with recommendations to modify the voiceover in the Exceptionally Fresh Feeling advertisement and the webpage’s Starke Study-based claims and side-by-side comparison chart.

“In creating its advertising, Philips carefully took into account NARB and NAD published guidance, including NARB guidance issued in connection with the similar “Start Your Day” commercial, and Philips believes that the NAD’s ruling represents a significant departure from NAD and NARB precedent,” the company said.

Separately, P&G has appealed the decision, stating: “Although NAD correctly determined that Philips’ express superiority claim failed to communicate the limited reach of the Starke Study, its decision disregarded longstanding NAD precedent that requires claim support to be reliable and reproducible. … P&G cross-appeals from NAD’s decision with respect to its finding that the Starke Study constitutes competent and reliable evidence for any superiority claim, let alone the quantified establishment claim made in the challenged advertising.”

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.