NARB Recommends Colgate Discontinue Certain Advertising Claims for ‘Sensitive Pro-Relief’ Toothpaste

New York, NY – Sept. 17,  2012 – A National Advertising Review Board (NARB) panel has recommended that Colgate-Palmolive Company discontinue certain advertising claims for Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste, including claims of “faster” relief.

NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

By way of background, television, packaging, print and website advertising for the product was challenged by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), manufacturer of competing Sensodyne toothpaste, before the National Advertising Division (NAD).

The challenged claims included:

•    “Gets to the nerve faster for long-lasting relief.”
•    “[C]linically proven formula that works fast, within 2 weeks, to provide relief to the nerve ….”
•    “Provides faster acting* and long-lasting relief with regular use [*vs. a leading potassium nitrate toothpaste]”
•    “FASTER & LONG-LASTING Hypersensitivity relief* [*Faster vs. Sensodyne toothpaste. Within 2 weeks. Based on clinical studies.]”
•    “Rushes to the nerve for faster relief. Superior formula delivers potassium nitrate to the nerve more quickly for faster relief.”
•    “Clinically Proven Better than the leading sensitivity toothpaste.”
•    Advertising directed to professionals with claims that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste provides faster relief than Sensodyne toothpaste and graphs showing test results identifying greater relief achieved with Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste as compared to Sensodyne toothpaste.

In addition to challenging the explicit claims, GSK argued that the challenged claims imply that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste provides immediate or instant relief to consumers with sensitive teeth. NAD disagreed and found that the challenged claims did not convey a message of immediate/instant relief.

Colgate offered two clinical tests and one in vitro test in support of its claims that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste is “faster” and “better” than Sensodyne toothpaste.
NAD found that the tests were insufficient to support these claims and recommended that the “faster” and “better” claims be discontinued. Colgate appealed these recommendations.

With respect to the advertising directed to professionals, NAD recommended that Colgate either discontinue the specific references to test results showing greater relief with Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste or modify the claims by affirmatively disclosing that these results were not seen when alternative test methods were used. NAD further recommended that Colgate either discontinue the graphs used or modify them so that the scales do not visually exaggerate the test findings. Colgate agreed to take these recommendations into account in future advertising. GSK appealed NAD’s recommendation that Colgate be permitted to advertise the test results in professional materials with the modifications specified by NAD.

The NARB panel agreed with NAD that one message conveyed by Colgate’s “faster” claims was that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste starts to provide meaningful relief from sensitivity pain more quickly than Sensodyne toothpaste.

The panel also agreed with NAD that reasonable support for this message cannot be provided by testing that first assesses pain relief at two weeks. Because no measurements after baseline were taken prior to two weeks, there was nothing in the record to sufficiently establish when the tested products began to provide meaningful relief and whether Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste was the first to do so.

In support of its “faster” claims, Colgate also offered an in vitro test that showed greater movement of potassium ions through dentin for Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste as compared to Sensodyne toothpaste. The panel agrees with NAD that this test was not sufficient by itself to establish that Colgate Sensitive Pro-Relief toothpaste provides faster relief when used by consumers.

The panel recommended that Colgate discontinue the challenged “faster” claims.