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You would think the world's two biggest ad spenders would know better, but nasty namecalling between Procter & Gamble and Unilever is just what Europeans have been watching for too long now.

The dirty business began in April when Unilever introduced its new stain-removing "power" formula detergents, under such brand names as Persil Power, Omo Power and Skip Poder.

Procter & Gamble, preparing for the debut of its own Ariel Future stain-removing detergent, gleefully charged that lab tests demonstrated the Unilever formula was causing clothes to rot.

Unilever adamantly denied the charges-although it did reduce the amount of the stain-fighting ingredient-and counterattacked in ads.

Throughout the summer, both multinationals pounded the bad publicity relentlessly back and forth over the advertising net.

Unilever even tried to sound contrite, saying: "Sorry about the warfare. It wasn't our idea."

And there is still no sign of any letting up-even after Unilever Co-chairman Morris Tabaksblat's shocking admission last month that the original formula did indeed have a defect.

We say enough is enough.

Nothing good can come out of this mudslinging, only harm to advertising credibility. If companies sow what they reap, the public will now think twice before it trusts either of the two biggest marketers in the world. Worse, any public trust remaining in the ad industry is at increased risk.

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