Gillette and Schick both got nicked in simultaneous decisions released Monday by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, which recommended they each modify ads that sprang from dueling razor launches last year.
For Energizer Holdings' Schick, the NAD is recommending it pull back advertising claims that led to considerable success. For Procter & Gamble Co.'s Gillette, the NAD found need for a relatively small change -- but based that recommendation on finding that the long-dominant men's shaving brand hasn't necessarily beaten its once-distant follower in the latest razor battles.
Schick needs to modify its "best shave for your skin" claim for Hydro razors and its claims that the razors with built-in gel reservoirs "hydrate" skin, the NAD said. The former makes a superiority claim over other razors, including Gillette's, that Schick didn't support, the ruling said, adding that the latter implies the razor produces post-shave hydration akin to that of a facial moisturizer.
NAD said Schick also needs to make clear that Hydro's "Better Shave than Mach 3" claim against Gillette's older system applies only to the three-bladed version of Hydro, not the five-bladed one. The NAD said Gillette needs fewer changes to its ads for Fusion ProGlide razors launched last year. But the bigger blow to the P&G brand may be the NAD's finding that the latest Gillette product line isn't necessarily "the leading brand" for comparative purposes.
The NAD found fault in the ProGlide ads for a claim that the new product had thinner blades in a comparison of "leading blades vs. Fusion." By that, P&G said it meant that the four "leading blades" of the five-bladed ProGlide launched last year were thinner than those of its predecessor, Fusion, launched in 2006.
Consumers could interpret "leading blades" to refer to the market leader, the NAD said. And the market leader wasn't necessarily ProGlide. Nor was it necessarily Fusion or the even-older Mach 3 (launched in 1998).
"In considering the message conveyed by the term 'leading product,' NAD reviewed market-share data that indicated the Fusion product was not the market leader at all pertinent time periods and that Hydro was also a leading product at certain time points," said a statement from the group. P&G didn't provide testing comparing the thinness of ProGlide vs. Hydro products, the NAD said.
In statements, both Energizer and P&G said they disagreed with the NAD's findings but would take them into account in future ads. Energizer spokeswoman Jackie Burwitz declined to comment further. P&G spokesman Damon Jones said, "Overall, we're pleased with the rulings largely," given that Schick has been told to make more extensive and substantive changes in its ads than Gillette has.
Schick launched Hydro last April, and Gillette followed soon after with its new ProGlide system. Hydro produced early gains, but those were largely wiped out in the early months of the ProGlide launch last year. Since then, however, Hydro and Schick have come storming back.
The rulings come in the wake of what may be the most intensely competitive period ever in one of the most-profitable categories in packaged goods. For the four weeks ended Feb. 19, Energizer's share was up 12.2 points in razors to 35.4% and 2.3 points to 14.7% in replacement blades vs. the year-ago period, according to Nielsen data from Sanford C. Bernstein. P&G's shares were down two points in blades to 82.6% and down 10.8 points in razors to 60.8%. The data excludes Walmart, club and dollar stores.
Changing ad claims could hurt Hydro's progress, given that Energizer CEO Ward Klein, speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference last month in Boca Raton, Fla., said Hydro ads had scored in the top 20% of all ads in copy testing. He also said the 42% repeat rate for Hydro was considerably better than the 35% rate for Fusion or the 25% rate for Schick's prior system, Quattro, launched in 2003, at similar stages in their launch cycles. Overall, he said Hydro had helped nearly double Schick's share of men's razor systems to more than 14% in the past year.
For his part, P&G Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald said on a January earnings conference call that Fusion ProGlide has had category-record repeat rates, and that its share would be bigger had the launch not so exceeded expectations that P&G ran out of production capacity late last year. With capacity expanded, he said P&G will ramp up production and marketing again this year.
P&G's Mr. Jones said Schick's most-recent share gains have come amid a period of heavy promotion. "We're feeling good about where we are [with ProGlide]," he said.