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P&G Tosses Its Own 'Brick' at Rival K-C

Charges of False Advertising Leveled at Huggies Brand in Latest Diaper Wars

By Published on . 1

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Sticks and stones may break your bones -- and bricks can definitely hurt you, particularly in diaper ads.
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Procter & Gamble Co. charges in a lawsuit filed Oct. 2 that ads for Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s Huggies, part of a campaign titled "Brick Baby," make false claims about the comparative fit and comfort of Huggies compared to P&G products, including Pampers and Luvs.

News ads follow NAD ruling
In a complaint in U.S. District Court for Eastern Wisconsin, P&G said Huggies launched a new round of ads that imply Pampers and other competitive diapers were better suited for bricks than toddlers, despite a May decision by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus advising K-C to modify similar ads. WPP Group's JWT, New York, handles Huggies.

One ad shows two moms -- one with a toddler, the other with a brick -- at a playground. The ad then shows a woman setting a brick on an unnamed purple diaper (purple being part of the trade dress for P&G's Pampers), as a voice-over says: "New Huggies Natural Fit are shaped for babies of the human variety."

The court has scheduled a hearing for this afternoon on P&G's motion for a temporary restraining order to yank the ads off the air. P&G also wants triple its damages for lost business and harm to reputation of its Pampers and Luvs brands.

A spokesman for K-C couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Share gains
K-C's brick tossing may have had an impact. Data from Information Resources Inc., reported by Morgan Stanley show Huggies gaining share consistently on P&G when the ads were running earlier this year. But after K-C discontinued them in the wake of the May NAD ruling, Pampers' market share has been rising and Huggies' declining.

For the four weeks ended Sept. 9, Pampers' dollar share was up 5 points over the year-ago period, while Huggies' share fell 4 points, according to IRI data. Pricing may also have played a role, however. Pampers' average price per diaper is down modestly this year while Huggies' prices have been increasing since May, according to the data.

A spokeswoman for P&G said it's difficult to determine what caused the recent share changes, but noted that Huggies had resumed the "brick" ads only in the past 10 days.

P&G in its complaint said Huggies' TV, print and online ads falsely claim its diapers have an hourglass shape while others, such as Pampers and Luvs, are rectangular. In fact, almost all disposable diapers have had hourglass shapes for 20 years, P&G said. "In all of these advertisements, K-C has placed a brick directly over the core of the Pampers diaper, obscuring the midsection of the core that has the hourglass shape," says a brief in support of P&G's motion for a restraining order.

Side-by-side demos
K-C also unnaturally stretched out the Pampers diaper used in the side-by-side demo to make it appear rectangular, P&G said.

The NAD determined in May that Kimberly-Clark didn't have adequate support for an implied claim that Huggies Supreme Natural Fit diapers are more comfortable than Pampers Cruisers.

K-C had argued that its ads didn't make that claim, even though its tests showed consumers found Natural Fit had a more natural fit and feel than Pampers Cruisers. The NAD said it was troubled by use of brand packaging with the "Natural Fit" name in the test, which could have influenced survey responses.
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