Philips Suit: Braun Not So Revolutionary

Company Seeks Ad Injunction Against P&G Shaver Brand

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BATAVIA, Ohio ( -- Philips Electronics filed a false-advertising suit against Procter & Gamble Co. today, charging that claims that the Braun Pulsonic electric razor works better thanks to "innovative sonic pulses" have no basis other than a survey of men who got free shavers.

The complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeks an injunction to stop the ads and unspecified damages, noting that half of electric razors are sold during the fourth quarter, though the suit comes only in time to affect the last week before Christmas.

Philips said P&G has put "an extraordinarily aggressive" campaign of tens of millions of dollars behind the Braun Pulsonic, launched in September, including ads that compare it to Philips' Norelco SmartTouch by showing the ripples each razor produces when submerged in water. But the complaint said there's no evidence those ripples are reproduced on men's faces or make any difference in shaving.

Survey or sweepstakes?
The complaint said Braun's claim, in ads from Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide, that "nine out of 10 men" voted Pulsonic the "best electric shaver they have ever tried" came from a Men's Health "survey" that actually was a scientifically uncontrolled sweepstakes in which Braun gave each participant a free $250 shaver.

A spokesman for P&G couldn't immediately reach Braun executives based in Germany but said the company most likely would decline to comment on the pending litigation.

"From 2004 to the second quarter of 2007, Braun's share of the electric shaver market dropped more than 15%," the complaint said. "To reverse this trend, Braun and its new owner, P&G [which acquired the brand along with Gillette in 2005], needed to significantly refresh the Braun shaver line. But because the defendants lacked any true invention to offer consumers, Braun and P&G began to pretend they did."

Comparing claims
Despite claims of "revolutionary technology" priced at the high end of electric razors, Pulsonic is no different acoustically than Braun's previous high-end shaver, the 360 Complete, Philips said. The complaint compared Pulsonic's sonic claims to those that sibling Gillette's M3 Power vibrating razor shaves closer. The U.S. District Court in Connecticut found no basis for those claims in a 2004 injunction against the ads.

Philips became a partner of P&G's Crest in the 2004 launch of the toothpaste-emitting Intelliclean power toothbrush before P&G bought one of its primary rivals, Gillette, less than a year later.
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