Nobody Left Smiling After NAD Toothpaste Ruling

P&G and Challenger Colgate to Each Appeal Ad-Claims Decision

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- The hotly contested battle for supremacy in the toothpaste market has resulted in the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus today saying it recommended Procter & Gamble Co. stop making claims that suggest its Crest Pro-Health toothpaste is recommended by dentists.
The NAD ruled against P&G's use of this imagery implying a dentist's recommendation in its advertising for the toothpaste brand.
The NAD ruled against P&G's use of this imagery implying a dentist's recommendation in its advertising for the toothpaste brand.

P&G said in a statement that it intends to appeal the NAD decision, in part, to the National Advertising Review Board. Colgate-Palmolive Co. also has informed the NAD is plans to appeal a portion of the decision regarding Pro-Health's claim to provide 12 hours of antibacterial protection -- a claim Colgate currently makes for its own Total toothpaste.

Losing share to Crest
The NAD decision came on a challenge by Colgate, whose eponymous brand Crest surpassed last quarter as the leading U.S. toothpaste brand, according to data from Information Resources Inc. and P&G.

P&G argued to NAD that Pro-Health ads using the caduceus symbol, used by the American Dental Association in its seal and by dentists around the world, didn't really mean it to imply that dentists recommend Pro-Health.

In its decision released May 18, the NAD noted that P&G "disagreed with [Colgate's] argument that the use of a dentist, caduceus, and dental tray in [Pro-Health] advertising creates an implied message that Crest Pro-Health is a 'dentist recommended' product. [P&G] argued that the caduceus is simply an ancient symbol of commerce."

P&G also argued that a dental researcher in its advertising was simply pointing to a list of points that dentists check and explaining that Crest Pro-Health protects all these areas, but that the ads weren't meant to imply dentists recommend the product for that purpose.

NAD not buying it
The NAD wasn't buying those arguments, however. "The concept of a dentist recommending the results or 'benefits' themselves ... is counterintuitive," NAD wrote in its decision. "Patients do not need dentists telling them that they do not want plaque-covered teeth or foul-smelling breath."

Because the dentist-recommended message the ads seem to covey is not supported by P&G, NAD recommended it be discontinued.

Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, created the ads, which, along with Pro-Health, have been crucial in building market share for Crest since Pro-Health launched last summer.

The NAD also took issue with the use of a list of seven benefits of Pro-Health -- that it fights cavities, gingivitis, sensitivity, plague and tartar as it freshens breath and whitens teeth -- in conjunction with the heading "The First & Only Toothpaste with the ADA Seal to Protect All These Areas."

Consumers would "reasonably take away" from the ads that the toothpaste is accepted by the ADA for each of the seven listed benefits, when it fact it's accepted for only five of them, NAD said. The ADA didn't accept Crest Pro-Health for freshening breath or fighting tartar, NAD said.

Stop cavity-reduction claim
The NAD also recommended Pro-Health stop claiming it reduces cavities 17%-25% more than standard sodium-fluoride toothpastes, noting the research behind that claim was on an early prototype, not the current product.

But the NAD rejected five other issues Colgate had with Crest's advertising, finding P&G had provided sufficient substantiation for claims that Pro-Health fights plaque, whitens teeth and fights bacteria for 12 hours.

In a statement, P&G said: "As Colgate in effect challenged the entirety of Crest Pro-Health toothpaste advertising, P&G is pleased that NAD upheld all Crest Pro-Health performance claims." P&G said it disagreed with NAD's ruling that information on a professional website about the cavity reduction wouldn't be understood by dentists to refer to a prototype, but that P&G would make the message clearer.

But the company said it would appeal the decision that the "dentist-recommended benefits" claim communicates that the product itself is recommended by dentists and that its ads falsely convey that the ADA accepts Pro-Health for use in all seven listed areas.
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