BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Terra Novo Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Erosion Product; Finds Advertiser Can Support Certain Claims

New York, NY – Jan. 7, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Terra Novo, Inc., modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s erosion control products. NAD determined, however, that the advertiser’s evidence served to support certain advertising claims.

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

Advertising claims made by Terra Novo in product brochures, flyers, mailings, e-mail sales messages and at the company’s website for its EarthGuard Fiber Matrix erosion control products were challenged by Profile Products, LLC, maker of Flexterra FGM and Flexterra HP-FGM, competing erosion control products.

In this case, the challenger asserted that the advertiser has made a variety of claims that its EarthGuard products outperform or are as effective as the challenger’s Flexterra. Many of those challenged claims cite testing results from the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) Erosion Control Test Facility, TRI Environmental Laboratory and other testing facilities.

Key to NAD’s decision was its review and evaluation of the advertiser’s evidence to assure a good fit between the support provided by Terra Novo and its advertising claims.

As a preliminary matter, NAD determined that it did not have jurisdiction to review the truth and accuracy of comments made in the LinkedIn account of a Terra Novo employee because, in the context in which they appeared, the statements did not qualify as “national advertising” under NAD Policies & Procedures.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD recommended that when making comparative or quantified performance claims, the advertiser disclose whether the claims are based on substantiation developed from tests on its EarthGuard Liquid product or its EarthGuard Pre-Packaged product.

NAD recommended that performance claims based on TTI testing clearly and conspicuously disclose the type of soil – clay or sandy – used in the referenced test. However, NAD found that the TTI results and Texas Department of Transportation approvals for EarthGuard on both sandy and clay soil provided a reasonable basis for general, stand-alone claims about EarthGuard’s ability to control soil erosion on a variety of soil types.

NAD determined that comparative claims that relied upon 2003 testing on Conwed 3000, a discontinued product, were not accurate and recommended that they be discontinued.

Regarding claims based on ASTM testing conducted by TRI, NAD noted that the advertiser provided ASTM D6459 testing, which served as a reliable basis for claims that EarthGuard Fiber Matrix delivered 99.8% effectiveness on sandy loam soil.

However, the advertiser did not provide NAD with ASTM D7322 test results for vegetative growth and, accordingly, could not support the claim that it attained “more than a 400% increase in vegetation.”

NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue or modify claims to avoid combining or conflating the results of TTI testing on clay soil and TRI testing on sandy soil. It also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the use of the claim “50% More Loss” in conjunction with TRI results for both EarthGuard and Flexterra, as the difference in the test results were not shown to be statistically significant or consumer relevant.

Regarding claims based on 2000 testing conducted at San Diego State University, NAD determined that the testing did not provide a reasonable basis for the advertiser’s claims and recommended that they be discontinued.

NAD determined that testing conducted by TTI and TRI supported comparative claims that assert EarthGuard is “as effective as flexible growth mediums.” To avoid consumer confusion as to the conditions under which the parties’ products performed at parity, NAD recommended that the advertiser clearly and conspicuously disclose the test specifications upon which such claims are based.

In addition, NAD recommended the advertiser modify or discontinue:

  • A claim that references Flexterra and states “other spray-on products [form a crust].”
  • Claims that EarthGuard is the only erosion control product with flocculating technology.
  • Claims regarding the required number of applications or passes of other products.
  • Comparative cost claims.
  • The use of links entitled “Approval” that do not connect to formal and up-to-date government approvals of EarthGuard, or modify those links to more accurately describe the underlying document. NAD, however, found that the descriptions explaining that EarthGuard had been used by certain agencies did not convey the message that they had otherwise attained formal approval by those agencies.

Terra Novo, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “accepts NAD’s decision and agrees to take NAD’s recommendations into consideration in its future advertising.”