The challenged claims appeared on the product website and Facebook page and on its YouTube channel, and were made by the competitor over complaints that it depicted competing body washes as harsh and damaging to the skin.
Dial body washes were shown in the advertising, and the rival contended that Unilever falsely denigrated its products by showing a container of body wash wrapped in barbed wire and utilized a series of false and misleading side-by-side product demonstrations that purport to prove that various Dial body washes strip away the outer surface of the skin, while Dove does not.
Unilever responded saying that its Dove Deep Moisture is a patented technology containing sodium cocoyl glycinate, an ultra-mild cleanser that limits skin protein damage, and NutriumMoisture, a conditioning technology, and that it is normal to tout the benefits in such a campaign and to educate consumers regarding the relative harshness of competing body washes.
The consumer goods giant also supplied literature to support its ‘harshness claims’ that explained that the surfactants used in cleansers can damage skin proteins and lipids.
NAD noted, however, that while the literature may have established the general principle that ‘some body washes can be harsh,’ it did not support the message conveyed by the advertising at issue - that competing body washes, including Dial, are significantly more damaging to the skin than Dove Deep Moisture.
On top of that, the ad watchdog stated that such a comparative performance claim would need to be supported by proper testing that yielded statistically significant and consumer meaningful results.
“Because consumers could reasonably take away the message that competing body washes, including Dial, are significantly more damaging to the skin than Dove Deep Moisture - a message which is not supported - NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its unqualified comparative ‘harshness’ claims,” said the ad board’s judgment.
With regards to the use of barbed wire throughout the ad campaign, NAD noted there was no evidence that consumers using any of the tested products would experience any serious skin damage and suggested this is removed too.