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PFIZER PULLS ADS FOR LISTERINE

Judge Finds Claims 'False and Misleading'

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DETROIT (AdAge.com) -- A federal judge has ruled that advertisements claiming Pfizer's Listerine mouthwash is as effective as flossing are "false and misleading."
4,000 workers will be putting stickers over the discredited claims on Listerine products.

$2 million to correct
Pfizer will deploy about 4,000 of its workers and spend $2 million to replace not only the ads themselves, but to place stickers over the claim on Listerine bottles and to remove similar advertisements that hang on bottlenecks.

Television, print and medical journal ads using the campaign are also being stopped, and the as-effective-as-floss campaign has been removed from the Listerine Web site, a Pfizer attorney said.

The New York office of WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson created the ads.

Ads pose health risk
Judge Denny Chin of United States District Court in Manhattan ruled last week that the ads pose a public health risk and could undermine the message of dental professionals.

"Dentists and hygienists have been telling their patients for decades to floss daily," Judge Chin wrote in his decision. "They have been doing so for good reason. The benefits of flossing are real -- they are not a 'myth.' Pfizer's implicit message that Listerine can replace floss is false and misleading."

McNeil-PPC, a unit of Johnson & Johnson, the health-care products maker based in New Brunswick, N.J., sued Pfizer over the campaign, saying it posed an unfair threat to its sales of dental floss.

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