The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that Dyson B2B, Inc., (Dyson) discontinue its internet video titled, “Paper Towels Aren’t as Clean as You Think,” following a challenge from Kimberly-Clark Professional (Kimberly-Clark). Kimberly-Clark alleged that Dyson’s advertising contained false and disparaging claims that Dyson’s Airblade hand dryer was more hygienic than paper towels.

The NAD agreed with Kimberly-Clark, and noted that the statements in Dyson’s videos, such as the claim that “Airblade dryers are less likely than paper towels to spread and transfer bacteria to users…,” along with the repetitive visuals of enlarged bacteria landing on paper towels, reasonably communicated that there is a significant health risk associated with the use of paper towels.

Although Dyson submitted independent studies to support its claims, the NAD found that the studies were insufficient with respect to the scope of the claims. Specifically, the claims exceed the geographical scope of the studies and the results did not support a broad, unqualified message that all paper towels pose a significant health risk. Further, the NAD stated that the studies’ results on the transfer rate of bacteria between paper towels and individuals did not support Dyson’s claims. Finally, the NAD determined that Dyson’s advertising conveyed that a generally healthy individual could be harmed by the paper towels, despite a qualifying statement in the underlying study that the study’s results did not imply paper towels are generally unsafe, but that instead results may be significant for immunocompromised individuals. Because it determined that Dyson’s substantiation did not support the scope of its claims, NAD recommended that Dyson discontinue its claims concerning paper towels, and Dyson has agreed to do so.

TIP: Companies should be sure not to overstate superior health benefits of their products. Claims should fit the substantiation on which they are based, including making sure that the claims do not exceed the limitations of any underlying study and do not overstate the certainty or applicability of results.