NAD Determines Aggregated Online Reviews Don’t Support Claims that Euro-Pro’s Shark Vacuums Are ‘America’s Most Recommended,’ Euro-Pro to Appeal

New York, NY – June 12, 2014 – The National Advertising Division, in a case of first impression, determined that survey information culled from multiple online venues was insufficiently reliable and representative to support a broad “America’s Most Recommended” claim.

NAD recommended that Euro-Pro discontinue the claim that “Shark” brand vacuum cleaners are “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum.” Euro-Pro said it will appeal NAD’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

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

Following a challenge by Dyson, Inc., the maker of competing vacuum cleaners, NAD reviewed the following express claims made by Euro-Pro:

  •  “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum”
  •  “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum Brand.*
    •  *Based on percentage of consumer recommendations for upright vacuums on major national retailer websites through August 2013, U.S. Only.”

NAD also considered whether the advertising at issue implied that Shark brand vacuum cleaners are the most recommended or most preferred vacuum cleaners among all vacuum cleaner owners nationwide.

In this case, the advertiser based its claim on its review of recommendations made at the websites of certain national online retailers. The advertiser asserted that for each quarter that it has used the claim, it has had a statistically significant higher percentage of “yes” or “would recommend” responses than any of the other included brands. In its August 2013 analysis, for example, Euro-Pro said, reviewers of Shark brand upright vacuum cleaners recommended their vacuum 94.2% of the time. It noted that the next closest brand, Dyson, was recommended at a rate of 89.9%.

The advertiser argued that its methodology adequately represented the view of the general American consumer. The advertiser contended that its compilation of online reviews is different from gleaning recommendations from more traditional studies and should not be subjected to the same rigor of representativeness and argued that online reviews are consumer-relevant and reliable.

NAD was concerned that the population of online reviewers that created the support for the advertiser’s “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum Brand” claim may not have accurately represented vacuum cleaner consumers across America.

NAD noted in its decision that a majority of vacuums sold in the U.S. are purchased from brick-and-mortar stores. Although, as the advertiser noted, in-store consumers can place a product review on a retailer’s website, it does not appear that in-store customers do so in any great number.

Walmart, NAD noted, accounts for over 47 percent of total upright vacuum sales in the United States, produced fewer than 20 percent of the total reviews in the advertiser’s analysis, while Amazon.com, which had only a 2 percent share of total upright vacuum sales, accounted for over 42 percent of the total upright vacuum reviews.

NAD looked not only at the representativeness of the advertiser’s online review data, but also at its reliability. NAD examined a number of factors before reaching a determination, including whether the authors of the reviews could be verified as actual owners or users of the product and whether the reviews could be confirmed as authentic.

Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser’s claim, “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum Brand*,” conveyed the message that its vacuum brand, Shark, is the most often recommended upright vacuum among all American vacuum cleaner consumers. NAD found that the advertiser’s aggregated online review data did not represent American upright vacuum cleaner consumers and determined that the advertiser’s evidence was insufficiently reliable or robust to provide a reasonable basis for its “America’s Most Recommended Vacuum Brand” claim. Consequently, it recommended the claim be discontinued.

Euro-Pro, in its advertiser’s statement, said it was disappointed that NAD concluded “that its aggregation of recommendations from online reviews cannot provide the basis for the type of claim at issue here.”

“Euro-Pro does not agree with NAD’s conclusion that its aggregation of online reviews is so inherently unreliable or unrepresentative that no claim, irrespective of its wording or disclaimer, can be supported. Accordingly, Euro-Pro intends to appeal this finding to the NARB,” the company said.