In a challenge brought by competitor Colgate-Palmolive, the National Advertising Division recommended that Procter & Gamble discontinue ad claims for its Crest Sensitivity Treatment & Protection Toothpaste.

The claims challenged included “Relief Within Minutes” and “When used as directed [the product] provides relief from sensitivity pain within minutes….” NAD noted that dentin hypersensitivity is a serious problem affecting millions of Americans and claims promising relief from sensitive tooth pain in minutes instead of weeks – the time frame for most sensitivity toothpastes on the market – are “particularly attractive” to consumers, requiring competent and reliable scientific support.

After analyzing studies conducted by both the advertiser and the challenger, NAD said that while P&G’s studies were “generally robust and well-designed,” the results did not reflect the claim of near-immediate pain relief. NAD expressed concern about certain elements of the studies – like the brushing instructions given to participants as well as the use of only one stimulus to assess sensitivity at the five-minute time point.

“Given that the strong performance claim at issue in this case is one of speed of relief, NAD determined that the studies offered in support of an immediate pain relief claim should have incorporated a tactile probe within the immediate time point while taking into account the need to minimize interactions, thereby providing more robust support as to the relief claim reflecting the real world conditions (e.g. food) that sensitive teeth encounter,” NAD said.

The decision also expressed concern that the advertiser’s study results were not statistically significant nor clinically meaningful. “While there is improvement in tooth sensitivity over time, with more clinically meaningful achievements at days three and after two weeks for both studies,” NAD said, the evidence was insufficient to support the “relief within minutes” claims, ultimately recommending that they be discontinued.

To read the NAD’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters: The decision repeatedly emphasized that because of P&G’s use of a “very strong claim” of relief within minutes, it failed to provide sufficient evidence. The NAD said that nothing in its decision precluded the advertiser from claiming steady sensitivity relief over time, but reminded advertisers that “Results from clinical studies must not only be statistically significant but also clinically meaningful.”