A recent NAD decision that focuses on detergent claims touches on some issues – including implied claims and disclosures – that are relevant to all advertisers. The decision covers a lot of ground, but we’ll focus on a few key points that translate across industries.
The front label of Tide’s Purclean bottle prominently features the product name against a green, leafy backdrop. Directly under that are the words “plant based.” And below that, there is a line, under which are various things, including a “USDA Certified Biobased Product” seal with “75%.”
The challenger argued that consumers are likely to interpret the label to mean that the product is 100% plant-based. Tide countered that the 75% disclosure on the USDA seal, coupled with information on the back of the label, clarified that the product was only 75% plant-based.
NAD agreed with the challenger. “Although the seal discloses the amount of bio-based content, 75%, it does so in very small font such that it does not meaningfully qualify the overarching unsupported message reasonably conveyed to consumers that the entire product is bio-based.”
The battle continued on the back of the label, which featured the headline “A Powerful Plant-Based Clean You Can Feel Good About” followed by a list of ingredients. The ingredients are identified as plant- or mineral-based,” except for petroleum-based ingredients, which are simply identified as “cleaning aids.”
NAD was concerned that the headline could create the false impression that all the ingredients are bio-based. The “cleaning aids” heading didn’t help clear up that impression. In a footnote, NAD clarified that ingredient list standing alone “would not be problematic were it otherwise clear that the product formula was 75% plant based.”
Whether you’re advertising detergent or something else, consider how consumers are likely to interpret your labels and ads. Even if your claims are true, if the overall message could create a misconception, arguing that you presented the information necessary to clear up that misconception in a small disclosure may not save you.