BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Zoetis Discontinue Certain Advertising Claims for Simparica Flea, Tick Preventative following Elanco Challenge

New York, NY – Nov. 10, 2016 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Zoetis, Inc., discontinue advertising claims that compare the efficacy of the company’s Simparica anti-parasite product to Trifexis, a competing product made by Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly and Company.

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 challenger contended that Zoetis’ superiority claims are based on a single study that is fatally flawed because it tested both products 35 days after initial treatment even though consumers are directed to dose their pets every month. Elanco also contended that the chart Zoetis uses in its advertising displays data comparing the effectiveness of Simparica and Trifexis in a distorted way that is misleading to consumers.

Zoetis maintained that the comparative performance of both products on day 35 is relevant to pet owners who may not re-dose at the end of the month, noting that pet owners may not remember to dose their pets on the exact same day every month, leaving a gap in protection.  It also explained that its data at day 35 demonstrates its superiority at the end of the month, without regard to whether the month is 28, 30 or 31 days long.  As a result, Zoetis argued that it is not misleading for it to compare product efficacy at day 35.

NAD, in its decision, noted that “testing the advertised products as they are intended to work, by following manufacturer’s use instructions, provides the basis for a claim that a product is measurably better than its competitor because it does not materially distort the performance capability of competing products.”

NAD concluded that to avoid falsely disparaging Trifexis, Zoetis should have tested each product pursuant to its product use instructions.  While consumers are free to disregard product instructions if they wish, advertisers have an obligation to follow product use instructions when conducting comparative performance testing for the purposes of claim support.  NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims comparing the efficacy of Trifexis and Simparica at day 35, including the graphic representations of flea kill on cartoon dogs at day 35, claims of 94% flee kill” for Simparica compared to 73.2% for Trifexis, and its chart comparing the efficacy of Trifexis and Simparica at 35 days after initial dosing.

Further, NAD recommended that Zoetis discontinue the use of a chart challenged by Elanco or modify the chart to limit its comparison to the support provided – speed to efficacy.

Elanco also argued that Zoetis’ advertising should disclose a material difference between Simparica and Trifexis – specifically that Trifexis is indicated for prevention of heartworm and intestinal worms.

NAD concluded that it was not misleading to compare the flea and tick removal efficacy of Simparica to Trifexis without disclosing that Trifexis is also indicated for heartworms and other intestinal worms.

Zoetis said in its advertiser’s statement that the company “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.  Zoetis respectfully disagrees with NAD’s conclusions but appreciates the time and attention that NAD has given to this matter and supports the self-regulatory process as a useful means for resolving advertising disputes.”

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.