NAD Recommends JJVC Discontinue ‘Stuck to My Eye’ Claim, but Finds Advertiser Can Support Certain Claims in Contact Lens Advertising

New York, NY – March 13, 2014   – The National Advertising Division has recommended that  Johnson & Johnson Vision Care, Inc. discontinue a comparative advertising claim that was based on study participants’  answers to a leading survey question. NAD determined, however, that the advertiser could support certain other claims made in advertising to eye-care professionals.

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

The advertising at issue appeared in print advertisements directed to eye-care professionals and was challenged by Alcon Laboratories, Inc.

NAD reviewed express claims that included:

•    “4.3x as many patients who tried [Alcon] Dailies Total1 in a clinical study agreed the lens ‘felt stuck to my eye’.”
•    “Because a lens they can handle can grow your practice.”
•    “1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST® Brand Contact Lenses
Easier to remove than Dailies Total1”

NAD also examined whether the advertising at issue implied that the challenger’s product fit poorly, was uncomfortable, unsafe or unhealthy, and/or more likely to be associated with adverse events.

Key to its decision in this case was NAD’s review of a JJVC clinical study. As part of the study, participants wore a pair of the parties’ respective lenses for one week each and were asked a series of questions regarding their experience with the lenses.

NAD noted in its decision that it did not take issue with the study’s methodology. Further, NAD was satisfied that all pertinent criteria were observed and that survey participants were properly instructed in the use of the products.

However, NAD was concerned with the use of this closed-ended question: “When I removed the study contact lenses, they felt stuck to my eye.”

NAD appreciated that study participants were offered a “Neither Agree Nor Disagree” option and acknowledged that because participants wore both JJVC and Alcon lenses bias toward one product or the other was reduced.
Still, NAD noted in its decision that it was “concerned that the use of a closed-ended leading question characterizing the difficulty of removal with the words ‘stuck to my eye’ – strong words that were not provided independently by the study participant – undermined the reliability of this study to support the challenged claim.  Such leading questions increase the potential for obtaining biased results and undermine the reliability of clinical studies.”

NAD recommended JJVC discontinue the claim “4.3x as many patients who tried [Alcon] Dailies Total1 in a clinical study agreed the lens ‘felt stuck to my eye.’ ”

The challenger contended that the claim “Because a lens they can handle can grow your practice” could also be interpreted by eye-care professionals to refer to aspects of contact lens handling beyond ease of removal from one’s eye, including removal of the product from the blister pack, ease of insertion and overall handling of the lenses. NAD did not agree and determined that the overarching message of the advertisements reviewed was “ease of removal” from one’s eye, noting that the JJVC’s “easier to remove” claim was not contested.  NAD determined that the claim did not convey any false or misleading messages.

JJVC, in its advertiser’s statement, noted that it disagreed with NAD “that the use of the phrase ‘felt stuck to my eye’ in a study question was leading, or biased the study results, particularly since the question itself provided clear context for the use of the word ‘stuck’ and was asked of wearers of both contact lens brands.  JJVC also believes that the sophistication of the professional audience of eye care professionals was underappreciated by NAD.  Nevertheless, in light of JJVC’s strong support for the self-regulatory process, JJVC will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”