Many of you are no doubt familiar with ANSI testing, which is often touted as the gold standard in assessing product performance. However, other types of third-party tests exist, even if they have not risen to the level of being an “industry standard.” A recent NAD decision sheds some light on when and how advertisers can use such tests in their advertising.

Epson America, Inc. was challenged by Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI) for advertising its 3-chip 3LCD projectors as superior to TI’s 1-chip DLP imagers. 3LCD and 1-chip DLP are the two leading types of projectors and compete based on a number of attributes. TI alleged that Epson improperly relied upon Color Light Output (CLO) as a measure of brightness performance. (CLO is a relatively new method of assessing the brightness of individual colors which can then be compared to the overall lumens, or white brightness of a projector. (Still with us?)). TI also alleged that Epson made overall image superiority claims even though it only tested specific performance attributes. Finally, TI also alleged that Epson inadequately disclosed its affiliation with native advertising websites.

A key issue NAD analyzed was the legitimacy of the Color Light Output (CLO) measurement as a method to rate and compare brightness of color between projectors. NAD took a hands-off approach as “it is not appropriate for the advertising self-regulatory forum to tell the projection industry how it should measure projectors’ brightness capabilities.” Though CLO is not an established industry standard, NAD found that it is a published method that Epson is free to promote. However, NAD found that Epson’s more specific claims promising colors up to three times brighter were possibly misleading because they promised a certain level of performance which users would not necessarily achieve, given the diverse ways and locations where projectors are used. NAD did, however, leave open the possibility of some type of more qualified color brightness superiority claim, noting that even the challenger’s testing demonstrated that 3LCD projectors displayed brighter colors than DLP projectors across a wide variety of use conditions. (NAD also analyzed issues relating to color gamut and color accuracy which we won’t get into here, but if you’re in the market for a color projector, it makes for an interesting read.)

NAD also found that Epson’s advertising conveyed image superiority claims that were broader than the specific attributes it tested, such as brightness. Specifically, NAD cautioned Epson that side-by-side images convey a broad superiority message. For similar reasons NAD recommended Epson forgo its claims that “three chips look a heck of a lot better than one chip” and descriptions of the image comparisons as having “noticeable inequality.”

Finally, TI argued that Epson failed to adequately disclose its connection to two websites that promote 3LCD technology, ColorLightOutput.com and 3LCD.com. Epson argued that it included a disclosure at the bottom of each site stating: “3LCD is a marketing organization created and run by Seiko Epson Corporation to promote 3LCD technology and educate consumers about its benefits.” Epson further argued that there was a link to its corporate website, making the connection more apparent. However, NAD found that the disclosures could only be viewed by scrolling down the webpages and that they were in small font adjacent to colorful images and large text headlines. As a result, NAD recommended Epson move the disclosures to the top of the landing page as well as on each page within the website for clearer notice.