BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Reckitt Discontinue Ratio Claims for ‘Air Wick Freshmatic’ Product Following Challenge from S.C. Johnson

New York, NY – Aug. 20, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Reckitt Benckiser, LLC discontinue advertising claims for its Air Wick Freshmatic Ultra Automatic Spray that state or suggest that one Freshmatic refill is equal to 55 cans of aerosol spray 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.

S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., which manufactures a “Glade” brand air freshener products, challenged the express claim that “1 Freshmatic Refill = 55 Aerosol Cans,” a claim qualified by the disclaimer: “Comparison of number of sprays: Freshmatic to 4-second sprays of Air Wick 8oz. aerosol.”

NAD also examined the implied claim that “1 Freshmatic Refill lasts as long as 55 aerosols.”

NAD noted in its decision that it routinely reviews advertising claims that compare unlike products – “apples to oranges” comparisons. As a general rule, NAD said, advertisers are free to make such comparisons as long as they clearly indicate the exact products compared.

NAD noted that the print and broadcast advertising and product packaging identified the general basis of comparison: the Air Wick Freshmatic automatic air freshener versus 55 aerosol cans – materially different products. However, it was not always clear which aerosol spray – Air Wick or Glade – was the basis of comparison.

Further, NAD determined that the impactful claim did not reflect how consumers typically use the products – on a continuous basis for the Freshmatic Refill but only occasionally to mask odors or freshen a room for an aerosol air freshener.

A key issue in the case was evaluating the appropriate basis for determining whether the 1 = 55 claim was truthful and accurate.

The advertiser contended the appropriate basis was a comparison of the number of “fragrance (spray) events,” while the challenger argued the for a comparison of the amount of fragrance contained in the respective products.
NAD reviewed the challenger’s comparison of the amount of fragrance in both products based on the products’ material data safety sheets as well as the advertiser’s calculations of the amount of sprays emitted by each product.

The results showed that 1 Freshmatic refill = 3.25 Air Wick 8 oz. aerosols, far less than the claimed 1 = 55 ratio.

NAD recommended that the claims “1 Freshmatic Refill = 55 Aerosol Cans” and “1 Freshmatic Refill lasts as long as 55 aerosols” be discontinued. NAD further recommended that the advertiser modify broadcast advertising to make clear that the basis of comparison is Air Wick Freshmatic versus its own Air Wick aerosol cans.

Reckitt Benckiser, in its advertiser’s statement, said it believes it has full substantiation for all of its claims as shown in the advertising. “However, as a strong supporter of NAD and the self-regulatory process, Reckitt Benckiser will make the revisions as described in the decision.”