3M Challenges Advertising for S.C. Johnson’s ‘Pledge Fabric Sweeper’

New York, New York – August 31, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that S.C. Johnson modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for its Pledge Fabric Sweeper, a product designed to pick up pet hair. However, NAD has determined that the advertiser can support certain claims for the product.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined broadcast and print advertising for the Pledge Fabric Sweeper, as well as advertising in other media, following a challenge by 3M, the maker of adhesive lint rollers. Claims at issue included:

Express Claims:

  • “It’s quick and effective, removing as much pet hair as 145 sticky lint roller sheets.”
  • “Pledge Fabric Sweeper for pet hair picks up as much pet hair as 145 lint roller sheets (about 2-3 lint rollers).”

QVC Claims:

  • “Each one of these rollers is equal to 185 of those sticky roller sheets.”
  • “It works much better than the sticky rollers. Much better, much faster, and much easier.”

Website Claims:

  • “Cleaning up pet hair has never been easier!”
  • “Q: Is there a price value difference for Pledge™ Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair vs. a lint roller?  A: Yes – Pledge™ Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair picks up as much pet hair as 145 sticky roller sheets.  This is equal to about 2-3 lint rollers.  The average price for one lint roller (approximately 70 sheets) is $4.05 vs. one Pledge™ Fabric Sweeper for Pet Hair at $4.99.”

Implied Claims:

  • The Fabric Sweeper performs the same functions as lint roller sheets.
  • The Fabric Sweeper picks up as much hair in normal use as is depicted in the demonstration.

At the outset of NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser asserted that the claim related to 185 lint-roller sheets, made in the QVC infomercial, was made in error, and that the  infomercial itself was no longer being aired and would not be aired again.  NAD noted in its decision that it appreciated the advertiser’s voluntary discontinuation of the QVC commercial.

NAD examined evidence that included the results of testing commissioned by the advertiser from an independent laboratory, as well as consumer-use evidence.

Following its review of the evidence, NAD concluded that the advertiser provided a reasonable basis for its claim that “Pledge Fabric Sweeper for pet hair picks up as much pet hair as 145 lint roller sheets.”  However, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify this claim to disclose the basis of comparison upon which the claim is premised – lint rollers, made for pet hair, that have 56 or 60 sheets.

NAD further recommended that the advertiser, in the absence of evidence that explains how the advertiser arrived at an average price for lint rollers, modify the value claim at issue to eliminate the unit price.

NAD found that broadcast advertising properly limited the comparison of the Fabric Sweeper and lint rollers respective capabilities to the removal of pet hair from upholstery and determined that a disclosure, stating the Fabric Sweeper was not intended for use on clothing, was unnecessary. Further, NAD did not find the demonstration depicted in broadcast advertising to be misleading but, rather, representative of the product’s demonstrated performance capability and storage capacity.

Finally, with respect to the comparative “ease of use” claims, NAD recommended that these claims be modified or otherwise limited to a non-comparative context.

SC Johnson, in its advertiser’s statement, said that the company “commits to take NAD’s recommendations into account in its future advertising.  SC Johnson thanks NAD for its careful consideration and detailed evaluation and discussion of the issues in this matter.”

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