Claims like "Helps replenish skin's moisture" and "Helps lock in moisture" for Gillette's Venus & Olay razor should be modified or discontinued, the National Advertising Division recommended.

In a challenge brought by Energizer Personal Care, the maker of competitive Schick razors argued that an unsupported moisturizing message – that the Gillette razor offered lubrication beyond shaving – was conveyed both by the text and imagery on the Gillette packaging and in television, print, and online advertising.

Gillette countered that the core message of the advertising was not one of moisturization but that the Venus & Olay razor offered “less dryness” as compared to a prior iteration of the Venus razor. The ads made no express or implied moisturization claims, the company said, and the “less dryness over time vs. Venus Breeze” disclaimer reiterated its core message to consumers.

But because the term “moisture” and “moisturization” can take on multiple meanings in the context of shaving, the NAD said the disclaimer was insufficient. Phrases like “Helps lock in moisture” connote a moisturization message to consumers. Combined with a disclaimer that was “starkly” separated on packaging and “nearly impossible to read” on television screens, “the placement of this disclaiming message was not readily noticeable to the audience and did not effectively qualify the main claim,” the NAD determined. “These advertising claims send the unsubstantiated message that the product provides a moisturizing benefit.”

Ad imagery like a double helix of creamy ribbons served “to enhance the moisturization message,” the NAD added.

The self-regulatory body recommended that the claims be discontinued or modified to present the disclaiming language as “part and parcel” of the main advertising message. If Gillette clearly and expressly limited its advertising with “less dryness over time vs. Venus Breeze,” it would convey a different, substantiated message.

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

Why it matters: The self-regulatory body used the decision to elucidate how to properly employ a disclaimer in ad claims. Gillette’s disclaimer appeared in “tiny print” on the back of the package, separate from the main message on the front. In the television advertising, “the disclaiming super utilizes tiny grey font against a non-contrasting background. Even when pausing the commercial while the super is on the screen, it is nearly impossible to read,” the NAD said. Alternatively, advertisers should ensure that disclaimers are “noticeable, readable and understandable to the audience” to avoid conveying an unsubstantiated message.