Concerned that a 48 hour antiperspirant/deodorant constitutes an overstated claim of “100% odor protection,” the National Advertising Division recommended discontinuation.

The Procter & Gamble Company touted its Secret Clinical Strength product as providing “100% odor protection” with a disclaimer “as typically noticed by others.” The advertiser also used “#100%orNothing” on its Twitter feed.

Challenger Unilever argued that when coupled with the label’s statement that Secret provides “48 hour odor protection,” the implied message to consumers was that the products are clinically proven to provide complete protection from underarm odor for 48 hours for 100% of women in 100% of circumstances, including after enduring stress, physical activity, and heat.

P&G told the self-regulatory body that Unilever improperly collapsed disparate claims and that the “100%” claims were presented in a fanciful way, such as a television voiceover stating that a woman using Secret was “80% nervous to lead the meeting, 90% confident I’d say the right thing, but with 100% odor protection, I had nothing to worry about.”

Rejecting the advertiser’s position, the NAD noted that “100%” claims convey a message of completeness and certainty to consumers.

“Looking at the advertiser’s ‘100% odor protection’ claim in the various contexts in which it appears, NAD determined that it conveys a message of ‘objective certainty,’ and that consumers could quite reasonably understand the claim to mean that they would not emit any underarm odor when using Secret Clinical Strength,” the NAD wrote. “While the advertiser’s ‘100%’ claim is often presented in the context of a playful use of percentages, NAD found that the claim’s juxtaposition against other uses of percentages does not serve to limit consumers’ reasonable takeaway regarding the scope of the claim.”

As for the disclaimer, the NAD said even if consumers had noticed, read, and understood it, they would not necessarily appreciate that the promised 100% odor protection would only be provided in some, and not all, situations. The disclaimer also contradicts the main message of the claim and accompanying visuals, as the consumer may fail to understand that odor protection would not always provide 100% odor protection in atypical situations like close encounters or very stressful events.

When used alone, the Twitter hashtag “#100%orNothing” did not necessarily convey a claim regarding product performance, the self-regulatory body said. But the NAD cautioned the advertiser that if used in the context of tweets about Secret’s odor protection capabilities, it could reasonably convey the message that the product provides consumers with total odor protection.

P&G also provided three tests it asserted would otherwise substantiate the “100%” claim, but the NAD found several problems with the protocol in the clinical studies and the use of consumer judges in a home use test.

Finding the evidence insufficient to support the “100% odor protection” claim, the NAD recommended that it be discontinued.

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

Why it matters: The industry self-regulatory body concluded that Secret’s “100% odor protection” claim conveyed a message of “objective certainty,” which lacked sufficient evidentiary support. The decision provides a cautionary note to advertisers about the use of percentage claims, which the NAD said “convey a message of completeness and certainty to consumers.”