BBB National Programs Archive

Novartis, Wyeth Participate In NAD Forum

New York, NY – March 18, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Novartis modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for Extra-Strength Excedrin. The company has said it will appeal certain NAD findings to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast advertising for the product following a challenge by Wyeth, a manufacturer of competing pain relief products.

The advertising at issue features woman, who appears to have a headache, sitting at an outdoor table. A clock at the bottom of the screen for the first part of the commercial indicates the passage of minutes. The audio voice-over states “Quick. What’s the only gel-tab with a triple ingredient formula to start relieving your headache in just 15 minutes.  Extra Strength Excedrin.  Go.”  The commercial cuts back to the woman who has stopped rubbing her head, appears to see a friend off-screen, smiles, and gets up from the table to go. 

NAD reviewed the express claim:

  • “Start[s] relieving your headache in just fifteen minutes.”

NAD also examined the implied claim:

  • Extra Strength Excedrin provides substantial and/or complete relief from headache pain within fifteen minutes of dosing.

At the outset, NAD determined that the plain language of the advertiser’s “start(s) relieving your headache in 15 minutes” claim expressly conveys the straightforward message that the average consumer can reasonably expect to start to feel some relief from headache pain within fifteen minutes of taking Extra Strength Excedrin.

NAD examined evidence that included a study provided by the advertiser on subjects who took either Extra Strength Excedrin or a placebo. NAD determined that the evidence demonstrated that while some consumers may feel some relief in fifteen minutes, most consumers will not experience perceptible relief in that short of a time period.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claim or substantially modify it to reflect the results of its study (i.e., that some people will experience some relief in as little as fifteen minutes).  NAD further recommend that the advertiser discontinue its use of the visual of the headache suffer pre- and post fifteen minutes of dosing because it reasonably communicates the unsupported message that consumers will typically experience substantial or complete headache.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that “while Novartis appreciates having participated in the NAD process, Novartis respectfully disagrees with the NAD’s decision as to how consumers interpret its express claim ‘Start[s] relieving your headache in just fifteen minutes.’”

Accordingly, with respect to that claim, the advertiser said, it intends to appeal the decision to the NARB.  “While Novartis also disagrees with the NAD’s determination as to the implied claim, it will take the NAD’s recommendation into consideration for its future advertising,” the advertiser said.