BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Modify Certain Advertising Claims For Lysol Neutra-Air, Following Challenge By S.C. Johnson

New York, NY – July 6, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Reckitt Benckiser modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for Lysol Neutra-Air brand air sanitizer and surface disinfectant spray.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast advertising for the product following a challenge by S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., manufacturers of Oust Air Spray, a competing air sanitizer.

The advertising at issue featured a man, boy and dog, all of whom appear disturbed by a cloud of odor emanating from an empty, unlined garbage can located many feet away. The commercial then featured a side-by-side comparative demonstration of Oust Air Spray and Lysol Neutra-Air, followed by a zoom shot of animated bacteria that are almost completely eliminated when sprayed with Lysol Neutra-Air and almost unaffected when sprayed with Oust.

During the side-by-side demonstration, a voice-over states “if you use Oust Air Sanitizer, it can’t kill the source of the odor.  That’s why there’s Lysol Neutra-Air.  It eliminates odors in the air and kills 99.9% of bacteria at the source, so odors won’t creep back.”

The challenger argued that the commercial conveys the unsupported message that the Lysol product is a cleaning agent, as well as an air sanitizer and surface disinfectant.  The challenger noted that, based on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved labeling instructions, Lysol Neutra-Air may be used as a disinfectant on surfaces only after the surfaces have been pre-cleaned.   Specifically, the EPA-approved language on the Lysol Neutra-Air label states: “for surface disinfection and sanitization: pre-clean surfaces prior to use.” 

The advertiser argued that the chemical make-up and regulatory status of Lysol Neutra-Air serves as substantiation for its superiority claim that the product prevents odor from “creeping back.”  The advertiser also submitted in-house Reckitt Benckiser testing that it claimed demonstrates that odors return when using Oust and do not return when using Lysol Neutra-Air.

NAD, in its decision, noted that it is undisputed that the two products compared in the challenged television commercial at issue have different functions.  Lysol Neutra-Air is a combination air sanitizer and surface disinfectant that can eliminate odors in the air and at the source, and Oust air sanitizer removes or masks odors in the air.   Lysol Neutra-Air provides the convenience of two products in one.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that consumers were not likely to interpret the animation as a demonstration of dirt removal, or view the animated bacteria as a demonstration of odor reduction.  

However, NAD was concerned that the commercial overstated the efficacy of Lysol Neutra-Air by claiming that it kills 99.9% of bacteria without depicting the pre-cleaning step that is mandated by the product’s EPA-approved manufacturer’s label directions.   NAD recommended the advertiser modify the commercial to include a pre-cleaning step.

Further, NAD was concerned about the reliability of the evidence provided to support the advertiser’s claim that Oust permits odors to “creep back,” and about the consumer relevance of the method of measurement that the advertiser used in its testing to quantify odor reduction.

NAD found the advertiser’s evidence to be insufficiently reliable to support the claim that under the depicted conditions that Oust permits odors to “creep back” and recommended that the claim be discontinued.

Reckett Benckiser, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company was disappointed at NAD’s findings regarding the pre-cleaning step and disagreed with NAD’s conclusions regarding the claim that Oust permits odors to “creep back.”

“We believe that the testing and protocols that were reviewed as a part of this exchange reflect the benefits of LNA and we are confident that future testing, taking into account NAD’s remarks, will continue to show the benefits of LNA … .” the company said.