NAD Recommends Clorox Modify, Discontinue Certain Claims for Disinfecting Wipes Following Reckitt Benckiser Challenge

New York, NY – July 10,  2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that The Clorox Company discontinue claims made for  Clorox Disinfecting Wipes in broadcast and website advertising, in-store materials, and a Spanish-language radio commercial following a challenge by competitor Reckitt Benckiser, LLC.

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

NAD examined express claims that included:

• “Clorox Disinfect[s] 2X the surface area vs. the other brand [Lysol].”
• “Disinfect more, with less.” (website)
• “Get more for your money [with Clorox Disinfecting Wipes].” (website)

NAD considered also whether the advertising at issue implied that:

• Clorox Disinfecting Wipes have twice the disinfecting power than Lysol Wipes.
• Clorox Disinfecting Wipes have superior disinfecting power vs. Lysol Wipes.
• Clorox Disinfecting Wipes disinfect twice as many germs as Lysol Wipes.
• Clorox Disinfecting Wipes advertisements falsely disparage Lysol Wipes.

Key to this case was whether the advertiser’s evidence was a good fit for the challenged advertising claims.

NAD noted in its decision that both parties’ products are registered as disinfectants with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.) The parties’ respective wipes are of similar size, contain a similar amount of disinfecting solution, and share similar evaporation time of four minutes.

However, the advertiser’s product reaches full disinfecting efficacy at four minutes of contact time with the surface, while the challenger’s product reaches full disinfection at ten minutes of contact time with the surface and, therefore, requires more than one application – either a second swipe with one wipe or use of a second wipe.

Clorox’s product minimizes the contact time necessary to achieve “disinfection” as defined by the EPA, allowing the consumer to get more “surface mileage” out of its disinfecting wipes. NAD agreed that this is a product benefit that the advertiser should be free to promote – but only in a way that is consistent with EPA Label Review Manual Guidelines and does not convey potentially unsupported messages about its own product.

Because the advertising at issue did not clearly disclose the basis of comparison for the “2X” claims – contact time with the surface and the parties’ instructions for use of their products – NAD determined that consumers could take away an unsupported superiority message.

NAD recommended that the challenged television commercial, in-store materials, and Spanish-language radio commercial be discontinued.  NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes the advertiser from making claims based on the length of time it takes for its product to reach full efficacy or differences in product-use instructions.

Regarding the advertiser’s website, NAD recommended the claim “twice as much” be discontinued and that its “Disinfect more, with less” claim, be either discontinued or modified to make clear to consumers that the basis for comparison is the shorter contact time and the parties’ product-use instructions.

Clorox, in its advertiser’s statement, took issue with NAD’s finding, but said that the company “will take NAD’s recommendations into account when developing new advertising materials that highlight this key difference between Clorox’s product and Lysol’s.”

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