National Advertising Division (NAD)
NAD Finds Certain Performance Claims for Smile Direct Club Clear Aligners Supported, but Recommends Modification to Others| Recommends Discontinuation of Challenged Comparative Savings Claims, Speed Claims, and Testimonials
For Immediate Release
Contact: Laura Brett, Vice President, NAD, 212.705.0109 / firstname.lastname@example.org
New York, NY – April 27, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (“NAD”) determined that SmileDirectClub, LLC (“SDC”) substantiated certain express claims regarding the ability of its Smile Direct Club Clear Aligners to correct some bite issues, but recommended modification to others. NAD also recommended that SDC discontinue the challenged comparative claims, savings claims, speed claims, and consumer testimonials, as well as modify certain questions in SDC’s “Smile Assessment” quiz, and SDC’s “Confident Smile Guarantee” policy. The claims were challenged by Align Technology, Inc. (“Align”), maker of Invisalign clear aligners.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB National Programs’ self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.
The following are representative of the challenged claims, which appeared in online advertising:
“Our aligners are designed not only to help straighten smiles, but they may also correct bite issues.”
“The clear aligner system is designed for minor to moderate teeth correction, including space between teeth, crowding, rotations, and some bite corrections.”
“SmileDirectClub invisible aligners straighten most smiles in an average of 6 months,” “Finish in as little as 6 months” and “Our average smile plan gets you a smile you will love 3x sooner.”
“Unlike some other brands, we trim our aligners straight across the top, not scalloped. Because of this, our aligners allow for optimal turning force to straighten your teeth without the need for attachments or buttons.”
“60% less than other brands” and “60% less than braces.”
Certain consumer “before and after” images and reviews.
SDC’s “Smile Guarantee.”
SDC products and services provide smile correction for the same or comparable range of severity levels as Invisalign® clear aligner therapy.
SDC products and services provide smile correction for the same or comparable range of severity levels as Invisalign® clear aligner therapy, but faster.
SDC products and services provide smile correction for the same or comparable range of severity levels as Invisalign® clear aligner therapy, but at a cost that is 60% less.
NAD determined that the advertiser had substantiated the claims, “Our aligners are designed not only to help straighten smiles, but they may also correct bite issues” and “The clear aligner system is designed for minor to moderate teeth correction, including space between teeth, crowding, rotations, and some bite corrections.”
However, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify the claim, “SmileDirectClub invisible aligners straighten most smiles in an average of 6 months” to disclose that the claim is limited to mild-to-moderate malocclusion that SDC aligners are designed to treat. NAD noted that the claim reasonably conveys the message that SDC could straighten most smiles, in general, not just those on the mild-to-moderate spectrum. However, there was insufficient evidence in the record to establish the percentage of malocclusion cases that can be treated by SDC aligners. Nor was there evidence that the amount of people that cannot be treated with SDC aligners is insignificant.
Further, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim, “Unlike some other brands, we trim our aligners straight across the top, not scalloped. Because of this, our aligners allow for optimal turning force to straighten your teeth without the need for attachments or buttons.” NAD determined that the claim reasonably conveys that the “optimal turning force” necessary to treat certain levels of misalignment, achieved by other aligner brands by means of an attachment, can be treated by SDC aligners without the use of attachments. However, the clinical study provided by the advertiser was not competent and reliable scientific evidence in support of the claim because it did not test actual products.
NAD also evaluated the message reasonably conveyed by the 4th and 5th questions in the advertiser’s “Smile Assessment” quiz and determined that the quiz reasonably conveys the message that SDC can treat all types of malocclusions, including those beyond the severity that SDC aligners are intended to treat. Therefore, NAD recommended that the 4th and 5th questions be modified to avoid implying that SDC can treat all types of malocclusions.
About the challenged claims, “60% less than other brands” and “60% less than braces,” NAD evaluated the evidence provided by SDC, but determined that it was not a good fit for these comparative savings claims. Thus, NAD concluded that the advertiser had not provided a reasonable basis for such claims and recommended that they be discontinued.
Further, with regard to the claims “Our average smile plan gets you a smile you will love 3x sooner” and “Finish in as little as 6 months,” NAD determined that the context in which these claims are presented is comparative, calling out specific price and time differences between SDC and braces and, as a result, reasonably conveying the message that SDC aligners are faster than the same treatment when completed with braces. NAD noted that there was no evidence in the record demonstrating that SDC can provide results “3x sooner” than braces in similar levels of misalignment severity. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim, “Our average smile plan gets you a smile you will love 3x sooner” and modify its claim “Finish in as little as 6 months,” to avoid conveying the comparative message that SDC treatment provides similar results “3x sooner” than braces. NAD noted, however, that nothing in its decision prevents the advertiser from making monadic claims regarding the average treatment time of SDC customers.
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the use of two challenged sets of “before” and “after” images because SDC failed to provide objective evidence demonstrating that these images represent typical results that consumers would experience using SDC aligners. In addition, because the advertiser did not provide NAD with a reasonable basis for the comparisons reflected in consumer testimonials, NAD recommended that SDC discontinue the claims, “I got the smile I always wanted with ½ the cost and time that regular aligners are.”; “The process was fast, painless, and by far the best price vs. other alternatives.”; “I am sincerely thankful for what Smile Direct Club has done for me at a fraction of the cost of braces and a quarter of the time.”; and “I love my new smile and am even happier that it only cost me a quarter, yes you read that part right a QUARTER of the price for Invisalign . . . .”
Finally, NAD recommended that the advertiser either modify the description of its “Confident Smile Guarantee” policy to disclose that consumers must pay return shipping and will not be refunded the cost of their impression kit or scan once they have begun treatment; or label the hyperlink to indicate the nature of information available in the link and ensure that the hyperlink to the terms of the guarantee appears in close proximity each time the guarantee is discussed and includes the recommended disclosures.
In its advertiser’s statement, SDC agreed to comply with NAD’s recommendations. SDC further stated that it has "already removed the content at issue from its website. Similarly, SDC has already discontinued, or will review and update, the remaining claims considered by the NAD, taking NAD’s guidance under advisement and using care to avoid any unintended comparative messages in its advertising.”
About the National Advertising Division: National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation overseeing the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for truth and accuracy.
About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs fosters trust, innovation, and competition in the marketplace through the development and delivery of cost-effective, third-party self-regulation, dispute resolution and other programs. BBB National Programs is the home of industry self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs that include the National Advertising Division (NAD), National Advertising Review Board (NARB), BBB EU Privacy Shield, BBB AUTO LINE, Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), Children’s Confection Advertising Initiative (CCAI), Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC), Digital Advertising Accountability Program (Accountability Program), and the Coalition for Better Advertising Dispute Resolution Program (CBA DRM). The programs are designed to resolve business issues and advance shared objectives by responding to marketplace concerns to create a better customer experience. To learn more about industry self-regulation, please visit: BBBNP.org.