Board uses precision nozzle to winnow down NAD ruling

Hip to Be Square

Dyson is a remarkable company. We’re not even talking about their products; we’ll leave them for you to judge in your own home. But from an advertising perspective? Remarkable. Because Dyson took household products – vacuum cleaners, hair dryers, fans – and gave them all the panache of an iconographic, high-tech consumer product.

The success of Dyson’s approach has made such an impression on the marketplace that the company’s name is a byword for sophisticated design. Check out this commercial for the company’s sleek and chic branding.

An even greater compliment – the contrast inherent in Dyson’s high-concept approach to low-cost, household mainstays has been spoofed by internet and television outlets, including “Saturday Night Live.”

Cordless Controversies

Dyson presents a big target to competitors who want to challenge its role as the “luxury” vacuum maker. Rivals have gone after Dyson for claims made in its ads, and Dyson has fired back – see our previous coverage of the company here, here and here.

Most recently, longtime competitor SharkNinja tried to sweep up several of Dyson’s marketing claims with a challenge before the National Advertising Division (NAD). At the center of the challenge were claims about Dyson’s line of cordless V8 vacuums, including that the products featured the “most powerful suction,” “40 minutes of runtime” and “new battery chemistry.”

The NAD maintained that Dyson’s suction ads should be modified “to disclose, as part of the main claim, that the Dyson V8 cordless vacuums have the most powerful suction in ‘max’ mode” and that the claims clearly represent that they describe cordless vacuums.

The NAD found Dyson’s “up to 40 minutes runtime” claims unsubstantiated and that the “new battery chemistry” claims should be discontinued, since the batteries in the cordless vacuums had been sold since 2016.

The Takeaway

Dyson appealed the decision to the National Advertising Review Board the (NARB).

The NARB agreed that Dyson needed to be more clear about the comparisons that went into the most powerful suction claims and asked the ads be modified to limit the claims to cordless vacuums. However, the board struck down the NAD’s request that the “max mode” should be specified in Dyson’s claim – agreeing with Dyson that “qualifying the claim to explain that it refers to operation in the ‘max’ mode would be redundant and potentially confusing.”

The NARB did believe that the 40-minute runtime claims were not substantiated but held that Dyson could support the claims if they were modified to say the claim was based on “operation in the extended runtime mode without use of motorized attachments” or note that “actual runtime will vary based on power mode and/or attachments used.” However, the NARB held that these new modified claims would need to be kept clear of images of the cordless vacuums with the motorized brush attached.

The NARB also agreed with the NAD about the discontinuation of the new battery chemistry claim, again because the new battery had been in products for more than two years.

Dyson agreed to be guided by the NARB ruling in future ads.