Reviewing advertising claims for over-the-counter allergy relief medication Allegra, the National Advertising Division recommended that manufacturer Chattem modify certain claims.

The case involved a challenge brought by competitor Merck, maker of Claritin.

According to the NAD, consumers could take a message of exclusive superiority from Allegra’s claim that it “Combines Fast, Non-Drowsy, 24-Hour Relief With The Power To Relieve Your Toughest Allergy Symptoms,” a claim not supported by the evidence submitted by Chattem.

A television commercial used the phrase “only Allegra” during the voiceover, which also listed allergy symptoms onscreen – like “sneezing,” “sniffling,” and “itchy, watery eyes” – and was immediately followed by an express efficacy claim that Allegra is “proven effective even at 8x high pollen levels.”

In recommending that Chattem modify the claim, the NAD concluded that “the fact that the ‘combination’ claim is immediately followed by an express efficacy claim reinforces the implied message that Allegra is the only allergy medicine with the power to relieve the toughest allergy symptoms.”

The NAD also evaluated Allegra’s claims about the speed of its relief and found the substantiation sufficient.

Based on the total net impression of the product’s commercials, the NAD said that consumers would not likely take away a message of immediate relief, but rather would understand the commercials as conveying the message that Allegra works “fast.”

Chattem provided a reasonable basis for its claim “Before Allegra, I waited hours for my allergy medicine to work. After Allegra, I get fast relief,” the NAD said.

But to avoid potential consumer confusion as to Allegra’s onset of action, the NAD recommended that Chattem clarify its disclosure that Allegra “starts working at hour one” by including the statement itself or by increasing its size and prominence in televised spots. In addition, while the NAD determined that the advertiser could distinguish itself from other allergy relief medication by being “fast,” it must do so “by modifying such claims to clearly and conspicuously disclose that this applies to the first dose only.”

Finally, the NAD determined that Chattem could support the claim that Allegra has been “Proven Effective Even at 8x High Pollen Levels” by the use of single-dose chamber studies, which it said were competent and reliable scientific evidence.

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

Why it matters: The decision serves as a reminder that advertisers must substantiate all claims that may be reasonably conveyed to consumers in the context of the advertising as a whole. Although Chattem noted in its advertiser’s statement that it disagreed with the NAD that reasonable consumers would take away the implied claim of Allegra’s exclusive superiority and that no such claim was intended, the company said it would incorporate the NAD’s recommendations.