The National Advertising Review Board upheld certain advertising claims but recommended that Origins Natural Resources discontinue claims that its Plantscription Anti-Aging Serum rivals an anti-wrinkle prescription and provides 88 percent of the visible wrinkle-reducing power of a prescription.

The case arose when the National Advertising Division requested substantiation from Origins for several advertising claims, including the comparative claims with respect to prescription products and cosmetic surgery, express claims about the presence of Anogeissus in the product, implied claims about the extent to which the product is natural, and use of the term “repair.”

After reviewing Origins’ substantiation, the NAD found the company could not support the claims and recommended that they be modified and/or discontinued.

Origins appealed to the NARB, which sustained one NAD finding and set aside the others.

A five-person panel agreed with the NAD that the two studies provided by Origins did not support the company’s express claim that “Nature’s Plantscription rivals an anti-wrinkle prescription” because it “reasonably conveys [an unsupported] message that the Origins product is equal to or better than the anti-wrinkle prescription. . . .” Looking at the “88 percent” claim, the NARB found that the failure to include a time period limiting the statement conveyed a broad message that overstated the effectiveness of Plantscription.

But the panel found the remainder of Origins’ claims passed muster. References that the products are formulated “with Anogeissus” in the overall context of the advertisements convey “only the messages that the products contain Anogeissus and that Anogeissus contributes to the anti-aging effect of the products,” not that the ingredient is “key” to reducing lines and wrinkles, as the NAD found.

Claims that Plantscription can “visibly repair” signs of eye aging split the panel. While a minority found that the phrase could convey a message that the products could permanently fix facial lines and wrinkles, the majority determined that consumers would take away the “less dramatic message” that the Plantscription products help improve facial appearance, a claim the company could support.

Emphasizing the company’s attempts at humor, the NARB said ad content like “Two dabs a day helps keep the surgeon away” and “the knifestyles of the rich and famous” did not promise comparable results to cosmetic surgery but was instead a comical play on words.

And, after examining the product name, plant imagery, and references to nature, the NARB disagreed with the NAD and said Origins’ visual and textual references did not overstate the extent to which the product is comprised of natural ingredients. It noted that Plantscription Anti-Aging eye treatment has a “substantial number” of natural ingredients.

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

Why it matters: In analyzing Origins’ claims, the NARB repeatedly emphasized the importance of evaluating challenged claims in the overall context of the advertisements. The panel also provided some guidance to advertisers in its discussion of the two studies provided by Origins to support its comparative ad claims. The studies were both double-blind, used the same methodology, relied on the same objective measurements, and were conducted by the same investigators in the same lab, but were conducted separately. While the NAD dismissed the studies as lacking substantiation because there was no head-to-head testing of the two products being compared, the NARB said the two studies were “essentially identical,” stating, “The panel agrees with the NAD that head-to-head testing is the most reliable substantiation when comparative performance claims are made. However, the panel finds, consistent with prior NAD decisions, that different tests may provide adequate substantiation for comparative claims if the tests are essentially identical or all of the variables are accounted for.”