BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘AW Pure,’ Air Freshener, Found RB Could Support Certain Claims

New York, NY – July 27, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Reckitt Benckiser LLC discontinue certain claims for the company’s Air Wick AW Pure products, along with the exaggerate depiction of a woman whose straight hair turns to frizz from when she uses a “traditional aerosol” air freshener.

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

The claims at issue were challenged by the Procter & Gamble Company, the maker of competing Febreze brand products, and included:

  • 9X More Fragrance”* (*compared to traditional Air Wick 8 oz. aerosols).
  • “No added water.”
  • “Full of fragrance, not water.”
  • “Water-based aerosols can leave your home feeling wet.”
  • The “Smiley Face” demonstration:  A side-by-side demonstration in which “traditional aerosol” and AW Pure are sprayed on identical “smiling face” paintings.  The “traditional aerosol” spray causes the painting to run, whereas the painting sprayed with AW Pure remains fully intact.
  • The “Paper Flower” demonstration: Two identical paper flowers are shown and one wilts from the soaking it receives when sprayed with a “traditional aerosol,” whereas the other stays upright and undamaged when sprayed with AW Pure “Tropical Flowers” scent.
  • The “Frizzy Hair” demonstration: A woman sprays a room with a “traditional aerosol,” which causes her straight hair to frizz.
  • The “Moisture” demonstrations: A series of demonstrations in which AW Pure is sprayed over a variety of surfaces (e.g., a glass window pane, a piano, and a cell phone) leaving each surface completely dry, compared with surfaces sprayed with “traditional aerosols” that leave each surface covered in water droplets.
  • The “Mist” demonstrations: Visuals of AW Pure in use that show a fine spray of mist.
  • 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 also considered whether the claims implied that AW Pure contains no water; AW Pure products have 9X more intense fragrance than traditional/competitive aerosol air fresheners; the added fragrance lasts 9X longer than traditional/competitive aerosol fresheners; AW Pure contains 9X more fragrance ingredients by volume or whether – because the AW Pure fragrance formula is 9X concentrated – each unit of product will last longer, allowing customers to use less and get the same or better results.

Certain of the challenged claims appeared in a commercial for RB’s AW Pure product. Following its review, NAD determined that consumers would reasonably understand that the “no added water” claim as it appeared in the commercial applies only to the AW Pure Freshmatic product.  Further, evidence on the ingredients used in AW Pure Freshmatic shows that RB has provided a reasonable basis for its claim that the AW Pure Freshmatic product contains “no added water.”

The challenged “Frizzy Hair” demonstration appears at the beginning of the AW Pure commercial and also on an in-store LCD display.  P&G characterized this demonstration as falsely informing consumers that using a “traditional aerosol” would leave so much moisture in the air that it would cause hair to curl and frizz due to humidity.  RB contended that this is a humorous illustration of a woman spraying a traditional aerosol that contains more water than AW Pure, which conveyed the limited message that AW Pure contains less water than “traditional aerosols.

P&G also took issue with advertising that featured a picture of a smiley face that began to drip and run when sprayed with air freshener. NAD was concerned that the “Smiley Face” demonstration didn’t show air fresheners in a typical usage situation – consumers typically do not spray air freshener directly onto surfaces – and, in fact, the depicted use contravened product usage instructions.

NAD recommended that RB discontinue the “Frizzy Hair” and “Smiley Face” demonstrations.

The voluntarily discontinued claim “full of fragrance, not water,” as well as the “Paper Flower” demonstration at the advertiser’s Facebook page will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

RB, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company is disappointed “NAD recommended that the “Frizzy Hair” demonstration and the “Smiley Face” demonstration be discontinued and that RB discontinue its use of the “9X more fragrance and less water” claim in the AW Pure commercial. However, as a strong supporter of NAD and the self-regulatory process, RB will follow NAD’s recommendation and discontinue the use of the challenged AW Pure commercial and the demonstrations. RB will take NAD’s opinion into account when developing future 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.