BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Recommends Sergeant’s Discontinue Certain Claims for Flea, Tick Products Following Bayer Challenge
New York, NY – March 26, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Sergeant’s Pet Care Products, Inc. discontinue certain claims for the company’s Sentry flea and tick products Fiproguard Max and Pronyl OTC Max. The claims appeared on product packaging and in website, television and print advertising and were challenged by the Animal Health Division of Bayer Healthcare, LLC, maker of K9 Advantix II (flea and tick control for dogs) and Advantage II (flea control for cats and dogs).
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Express claims at issue included:
- Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl]: “start killing fleas and ticks in five minutes” (the “Five-Minute Kill Claim”)
- Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl]: “99% of fleas dead in just four hours – 100% within 24 hours!” (the “Four-Hour Claim”);
- Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl] “prevent more fleas from biting your pets than … K9 Advantix II (the “Comparative Biting Claim”);
- Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl] continue to prevent more fleas from biting pets than Bayer’s products for an entire month (the “Month-Long Prevention Claim”);
- “Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl] kills chewing lice and helps control mites that may cause sarcoptic mange”
- “Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl] kills so fast, it prevents reinfestation of fleas, ticks and chewing lice.”
- “Fiproguard Max [and Pronyl] “protects your dog and your family against the diseases fleas and ticks spread, including Lyme disease.”
NAD also considered whether the advertising reviewed implied that Pronyl prevents fleas from biting humans.
The challenged commercial depicted a woman with two dogs in and around a home as the voiceover stated: “You know how two things can look the same and yet be very different?” Other flea and tick products work eventually….but Sergeant’s Pronyl OTC Max for dogs starts to kill in minutes.” A product package appeared with the claim: “Starts to Kill fleas and Ticks in as little as 5 Minutes.” The commercial ended with a scene of the woman and dogs in the house, as the voiceover continued: “That means faster protection and fewer bites for your pets and your family.”
According to Bayer, the three studies offered in support of the advertiser’s claims were flawed and unreliable and Sergeant’s compounded the flaws by cherry picking favorable data from certain studies in support of its claims, while ignoring contradictory data.
The advertiser asserted that it had a reasonable basis, substantiated by methodical and comprehensive testing for its claims. Moreover, Sergeant’s stated, certain claims at issue were approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to which the NAD should defer.
Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its unsupported claims that:
- Fiproguard and Pronyl “start killing fleas and ticks in five minutes”
- Kill “99% of fleas dead in just four hours – 100% within 24 hours!”
- “Prevent more fleas from biting your pets than … K9 Advantix II”
- Continue to prevent more fleas from biting than Bayer’s products for an entire month.
NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claim that Fiproguard Max and Pronyl:
- Kill “chewing lice and helps control mites that may cause sarcoptic mange”
- Kill “so fast, it prevents reinfestation of fleas, ticks and chewing lice”
- Protect “your dog and your family against the diseases fleas and ticks spread, including Lyme disease.”
In examining the implied claims at issue, NAD concluded that the more reasonable message conveyed by these claims is that to the extent that the advertiser’s products work to kill fleas and ticks on the family dog, it necessarily follows that the chances of a human being bitten by a live flea or tick are reduced.
Finally, in regard to EPA approval of certain claims, NAD noted that its review considered the question of whether consumers could reasonably take away an implied message because of the context in which a claim appeared in certain advertisements – a context that was not before the EPA in reviewing the specific language cited by the parties.
Sergeant’s, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company is “disappointed with the NAD’s decision in this matter for numerous reasons … .”
“Sergeant’s, however, as a supporter of the NAD self-regulatory process, will bear the decision in mind for any future uses of comparative or onset of action claims,” the company said.