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NAD Recommends Sherwin-Williams Discontinue Claims for “Odor-Eliminating” Paint

By Tim Wright | March 30, 2010

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that The Sherwin-Williams Company modify or discontinue certain odor-elimination claims for the company’s Dutch Boy Refresh Paint.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that The Sherwin-Williams Company modify or discontinue certain odor-elimination claims for the company’s Dutch Boy Refresh Paint. The company will appeal certain NAD findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined advertising claims made by Sherwin-Williams in print, point-of-sale, Internet, labeling and television advertising. The claims at issue were challenged by PPG Architectural Finishes, Inc., which makes competing paint products, and included:

“eliminates household odors;” “continuously eliminates odors day after day;” “The first and only paint with Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology and 0 VOC;” “By painting with Refresh, not only will you be using a premium paint, but you will also be using the largest area of your home to eliminate odors day after day.”

The broadcast advertising featured a couple visiting a second couple who have a cat and a dog. The visiting couple sniffed unappreciatively while the announcer stated that 64% of people do not notice odor in their own homes. The commercial cut to the homeowners repainting one of their walls in Refresh paint while the pets looked on. The announcer stated that Refresh paint “continuously eliminates odors day after day” and that the paint “adds beauty” and “eliminates odors.”

The POS material included a diagram that depicts odor malodor particles near a wall before and then after an application of Refresh paint. The diagram showed many malodor particles in the “before” sketch and only a few particle in the “after” depiction.

A print advertisement featured the Refresh paint can with a large Arm & Hammer seal, circled by “Odor Eliminating Technology” text in the left hand corner. On the right hand side, larger text stated “64% of people don’t notice odors in their own home. Are you one of them?” Below was the line “Adds beauty. Eliminates household odors.”
All the Refresh paint advertisements featured the “odor eliminating technology” symbol.

Through its expert, the advertiser explained that all latex paints have odor absorption properties that are directly related to the size of the area of the surface painted and the chemical reactivity. In the case of the advertiser’s Refresh paint, the advertiser maintained that it joined with Arm & Hammer to create a paint that contains additives with odor binding capacities that are unique to the Refresh formula. Specifically, the advertiser claimed that the adsorbent additives were carefully chosen based on their odor eliminating chemistry, large porosity, solubility and molecule size. Paints made with these particular odor eliminating materials are designed to increase the interaction of odor molecules with the odor neutralizing or trapping ingredients.

In reaching its decision, NAD reviewed evidence that included a consumer survey, conducted by the challenger and designed to assess how the advertiser’s claims were interpreted, as well as laboratory tests provided by the challenger and the advertiser and field tests conducted by the advertiser. Following its review, NAD found that the challenger’s consumer-survey data was not sufficiently reliable to support the challenger’s position regarding consumer understanding of the advertiser’s claims.

In the absence of reliable consumer perception evidence, NAD routinely steps into the role of the consumer to determine the reasonable messages conveyed by the adverting. In this case, NAD concluded that the claims “eliminates household odors,” “continuously eliminates household odors day after day” and “odor eliminating technology” conveyed the message that Refresh paint will reduce odors to a level that is not detectable to the average consumer during the useful life of the paint. NAD further determined that the advertiser’s field and laboratory tests did not provide sufficient evidence to support such claims and recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claims or modify the claims to better reflect the test results; i.e., that Refresh can help reduce odor.

Sherwin-Williams, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company disagrees with NAD’s finding regarding the claims “eliminates household odors” and “odor eliminating technology.” The company said it will appeal those findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

Sherwin-Williams took issue with the NAD’s evaluation of the company’s laboratory testing, “which was conducted in accordance with accepted procedures in this and many other industries.”

However, the company said, it will discontinue its “continuously, day after day” claims, and will take the NAD’s findings into consideration in its future advertising for Refresh Paint.

NAD's inquiry was conducted under NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures for the Voluntary Self-Regulation of National Advertising. Details of the initial inquiry, NAD's decision, and the advertiser's response will be included in the next NAD/CARU Case Report.

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