NAD Recommends Unilever Discontinue Certain Claims for ‘Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash’ Following Dial Challenge; Advertiser to Appeal

New York, NY – June 19, 2013 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Unilever United States, Inc., discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s “Dove Deep Moisture Body Wash,” following a challenge by The Dial Corporation, a Henkel company.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Challenged claims, which appeared at the product website and Facebook page and on its YouTube channel, included:

  •  “Doesn’t Your Skin Deserve The ‘Proven Best Care’?”
  •  “Some body washes can be harsh. Only NEW Dove Body Wash is specially formulated with our gentlest cleansers ever to provide the proven best care.”
  •  “Wow, look at the Dial body wash paper. If it can strip this paper, imagine what it can do to your skin. The Dove one looks a lot better and it hasn’t been stripped away. Clearly not all body washes are the same.”
  •  “Even moisturizing body washes can be harsh.”
  •  “Even if you don’t feel it, most moisturizing body washes can strip your skin.”
  •  “If other body washes can strip this paper, imagine how harsh they can be to your skin.”

NAD examined also the implied claim that Dial body washes can inflict serious damage on skin.

According to the challenger, Unilever has run a false and disparaging comparative advertising campaign that depicted competing body washes as harsh and damaging to the skin. The specific Dial body washes shown in Unilever’s advertising were Dial Spring Water, Dial for Men Full Force, and Right Guard Total Defense 5 Cooling. The challenger, however, contended that the campaign as a whole targeted the entire product line for these brands and often referred to “Dial” body washes in general.

Dial contended that Unilever falsely denigrated Dial’s products by showing a container of body wash wrapped in barbed wire and utilized a series of false and misleading side-by-side product demonstrations that purport to prove that various Dial body washes strip away the outer surface of the skin, while Dove does not.

The advertiser explained that it invested significant time and resources to develop a cleansing mechanism capable of both conditioning and limiting the damage to the skin.

The advertiser noted that Dove Deep Moisture cleans and moisturizes, while also replenishing the top layer of the skin with the nutrients (lipids) necessary to perform its natural protective function.

Dove Deep Moisture is a patented technology containing sodium cocoyl glycinate, an ultra-mild cleanser that limits skin protein damage, and NutriumMoisture, a conditioning technology. The advertiser maintained that it was entitled to tout the benefits of Dove Deep Moisture and to educate consumers regarding the relative harshness of competing body washes.

NAD determined first that one of the messages conveyed by the advertising at issue was that competitive body washes, including the challenger’s Dial Spring Water body wash, are significantly harsher than Dove Deep Moisture.
In support of its “harshness” claims, the advertiser relied on scientific literature that explained that the surfactants used in cleansers can damage skin proteins and lipids. NAD noted, however, that while the literature may have established the general principle that “some body washes can be harsh,” it did not support the message conveyed by the advertising at issue – that competing body washes, including Dial, are significantly more damaging to the skin than Dove Deep Moisture.

Further, NAD noted, such a comparative performance claim would need to be supported by proper testing that yielded statistically significant and consumer meaningful results.

Although the advertiser pointed to its product demonstration – which used test material made of essential nutrients found in the skin to imitate the skin’s top layer – as purportedly confirming the nutrient stripping potential of competitor body washes. NAD concluded, however, that the demonstration was not sufficiently consumer relevant and that the results were not sufficiently reliable to show real-life damage created by the various body washes tested.
Because consumers could reasonably take away the message that competing body washes, including Dial, are significantly more damaging to the skin than Dove Deep Moisture – a message which is not supported – NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its unqualified comparative “harshness” claims. NAD further recommended that video reenactments of the product demonstration be discontinued.

Unilever’s campaign included several advertisements which utilized visuals of barbed wire surrounding a bottle of body wash. However, NAD noted, there was no evidence that consumers using any of the tested products would experience any serious skin damage –much less the level of gouging depicted in the advertisements. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the barbed wire visuals in the challenged advertising.
Finally, although the advertiser established that Dove Deep Moisture replenishes lipids that are lost when consumers wash with the product, in the absence of direct comparative testing on lipid replenishment itself and given the testing results provided by the advertiser, NAD concluded that the evidence did not establish that Dove Deep Moisture provided the best combination of gentle cleansing and skin conditioning benefits in the body wash market. NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its comparative “proven best care” claims.

Unilever, in its advertiser’s statement, said while the company “has great respect for NAD and the self-regulatory process, we do not agree with NAD’s interpretation of the advertisements at issue nor do we agree with NAD’s analysis of the very complex evidence provided in support of our claims in this case. … Unilever respectfully appeals the decision to the National Advertising Review Board.”