BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Procter & Gamble Discontinue Television Commercial For Its Tide Pods Making Unsupported Comparative Superiority Claims

New York, NY – May 2, 2019 – Following a challenge by Church & Dwight, the National Advertising Division recommended that Procter & Gamble discontinue a television commercial for its Tide Pods, having found that it reasonably conveys the unsupported message that a single Tide Pods capsule is markedly superior to an entire bottle of Arm & Hammer detergent, regardless of the stain or soil type, and the falsely disparaging message that Arm & Hammer laundry detergent is ineffective.

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

The challenged commercial features Rob Gronkowski, a professional football player for the New England Patriots widely known as “Gronk,” performing a comparative product demonstration. In the commercial, Gronk washes two white t-shirts with large, brown stains, the first using a 50-ounce bottle of Arm & Hammer and the second using a single Tide Pods capsule. The shirt cleaned with an entire bottle of Arm & Hammer remained discolored, whereas the shirt cleaned with a single Tide Pods capsule had no visible remnants of the brown stain.

Church & Dwight asserted that the side-by-side product demonstration in the challenged commercial communicates the message that a single Tide Pods capsule cleans stains and soils better than an entire 50-ounce bottle of Arm & Hammer.  Procter & Gamble countered that the commercial communicates a parity message, and that any superiority message is clearly limited to the specific stain depicted in the commercial.

NAD concluded that the challenged commercial communicated the broad superiority message that one Tide Pods capsule, with its innovative form and breakthrough technology, will substantially outperform an entire bottle of Arm & Hammer on all stain types.  Further, the small disclosure that appeared at the bottom of the screen: “Fresh chocolate ice cream and sauce. 50-ounce leading baking soda detergent,” was not clear or conspicuous and, thus, did not appropriately limit the superiority message solely to the stain depicted in the commercial.

In support of its superior performance message, the advertiser submitted testing which compared a single Tide Pods capsule to an entire 50-once bottle of Arm & Hammer. However, NAD had a number of concerns with the testing including the reliability of testing a product dose that is inconsistent with the manufacturer’s recommendations, fit between the closeness of the test results and the strong superiority message reasonably conveyed by the commercial, and consistency between the degree of stain removal observed in laboratory testing and the degree of stain removal shown in the commercial. NAD determined that such testing did not support the broad superiority message communicated by the challenged commercial. NAD also found that the product demonstration in the commercial is falsely disparaging because it reasonably communicates an overall negative assessment of the general stain removal capabilities of Arm & Hammer, a message which is contradicted by Procter & Gamble’s own test results indicating that Arm & Hammer is effective at cleaning certain stains and fabrics. Consequently, NAD recommended that the commercial be discontinued.

In its advertiser’s statement, Procter & Gamble stated that it will comply with NAD’s recommendations and that it “remains a strong supporter of the industry self-regulatory process.”

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.