It is common for a seller to offer a line or a series of products to address a particular need, and sometimes to bundle these products as a set. We see this, for example, with beauty products where one anti-aging powerhouse is packaged with a cleaner and toner. We also see portfolio companies advertising a product but including within the ad mention of the complete line or family of products. NAD recently looked at a case like this and addressed the question of when a claim intended for one product could be imputed as a promise that each product in the bundle or the line would provide the same benefit.
This CRN challenge to XLear’s Spry Dental Defense System provides some guidance. The Spry system included a line of products including chewing gum, mints, mouthwash, and toothpaste. There was a print ad with a woman smiling alongside a picture of all of the products with claims that included “protect your teeth with scientifically-proved all natural xylitol.” The advertiser submitted a variety of scientific evidence including reports from the American Dental Association. The upshot was that NAD found there was solid science showing that children 5-16 or adults with a high risk of caries could reduce the risk of caries by chewing xylitol gum or mints after every meal along with brushing with fluoride toothpaste. NAD found that the line shot coupled with the claim suggested each of the products in the line provided the benefits of xylitol when the evidence did not support such a claim with use of the xylitol toothpaste or mouthwash. In other words, NAD concluded that the xylitol benefits claim could reasonably be understood to apply to each item in the line and not only to the line as a whole.
This decision counsels that advertisers should take a very careful look at ads with product claims that also include line claims or even simply line beauty shots. The safest route, particularly where the claims are health or performance related, is to only include products that individually can support the claim or otherwise make clear which products perform the advertised functions and which do not. NAD has addressed this issue repeatedly in the context of preference claims that advertisers need to be very clear if the preference for one product over another is for one product or for the line, but this case serves as a reminder that NAD may look for this sort of caution even when the claim is monadic.
An interesting side note is that NAD referred XLear to the NAD after the company participated in the process but did not submit an advertiser’s statement. It seems odd for an advertiser to choose to fully participate in the process but to not supply a response to the decision, but if there was any doubt before, the advertiser’s statement is clearly not optional.