And Clorox Co. has entered the fray, with TV ads that P&G charges imply an endorsement of Clorox products by Tide.
The Shout commercial by Foote, Cone & Belding, Chicago, is running in Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, test markets for Tide Treatments. The ad claims Shout, the category leader, does a better job of removing blood stains, and shows women expressing disappointment with P&G's product.
A spokeswoman for Shout marketer S.C. Johnson & Son wouldn't comment on the ad.
P&G FIGHTS BACK
P&G, which is supporting the test with its own 30-second TV spot from Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York, countered with a page newspaper ad in Cincinnati and Dayton headlined, "When you have the solutions for stains you don't have to shout" and offering a money-back guarantee on Tide Treatments.
"We don't believe the Shout ad represents what happens in real life," a P&G spokeswoman said. "Under our test conditions, actually Tide Treatments is superior to Shout in getting out blood stains. But .*.*. the issue is that the ad may imply a broad-based superiority by using only a couple of stains, and that simply isn't true. Frankly, it only serves to confuse and mislead consumers."
The spokeswoman wouldn't comment on the possibility of litigation over the advertising.
The P&G line includes Tide Treatments Spotter, Sock Soak and Activated Bleach, though the Shout ad specifically targets only the Spotter product, which is most similar to Shout.
S.C. Johnson has reason to worry about P&G's entry into the market, said William Steele, analyst with Dean Witter Reynolds, San Francisco. "Tide is the market leader in laundry detergent, so the cross-merchandising opportunities are huge," he said.
"A project that could mean as much to S.C. Johnson and the Shout franchise as Tide Treatments is worth competing for even in the test geography," added Jeffrey Hill, managing partner of Meridian Consulting Group, Westport, Conn.
FEAR OF CONFUSION
Meanwhile, Clorox Co. is running three 30-second spots by Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco in the Cincinnati and Dayton markets featuring testimonials by Tide users for Clorox bleach and Clorox 2 non-chlorine bleach.
"We think consumers could be misled into thinking that Tide is endorsing or recommending these Clorox products, and that absolutely .*.*. is not the case," the P&G spokeswoman said.
A Clorox spokeswoman said the ads feature Tide because it's the leading detergent brand. "I think what the ads say very clearly is that using a chlorine or non-chlorine bleach with detergent is the best way to boost the cleaning power of the laundry detergent," the spokeswoman said.