NARB Panel Recommends Zero Technologies Discontinue Broadcast Ad Challenged by Clorox, Finds Advertiser Can Support Filter Claim made for ZeroWater Pitcher

New York, NY – June 16, 2014 – A five-member panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Zero Technologies, the maker of the ZeroWater Z-Pitcher, discontinue a broadcast advertisement that implies a competing product is not effective at filtering contaminants from drinking water.

The NARB panel further found that Zero Technologies provided a reasonable basis for its claim that the ZeroWater filter “removes virtually all dissolved solids because conventional filters like Brita have only one or two stages and ZeroWater has five,” as long as the claim is made in the context of an advertisement that clearly explains what “dissolved solids” are.

The claims at issue, made in a television commercial, were initially challenged by The Clorox Company, maker of Brita water filtration products, before the National Advertising Division, an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

The television commercial featured a product demonstration in which a mixture of water and red wine was filtered through a Brita pitcher and a ZeroWater pitcher. The demonstration showed that the liquid filtered through the Brita pitcher was pink while the liquid filtered through the ZeroWater pitcher was clear. The commercial showed a measurement that representing dissolved solids in the filtered water – 282 for the liquid filtered through the Brita pitcher and 000 for the liquid filtered through the ZeroWater pitcher.

In the underlying case, NAD noted that total dissolved solids (TDS) are classified by the Environmental Protection Agency as “non-health related secondary contaminants” and include substances that affect the taste and appearance of water. NAD determined that Zero Technologies did not provide a reasonable basis to support this message and recommended that the product demonstration be discontinued in future advertising unless the advertising:

  •  Made it clear that the demonstration is limited to the pitchers’ relative ability to remove dissolved solids
  •  Explained the relevance to consumers of dissolved solids
  •  Did not reasonably imply that dissolved solids are harmful or always undesirable
  •  Did does not imply that the Brita filter is an ineffective filter.

Zero Technologies appealed NAD’s determination.

NAD also found that the statement “Not only does ZeroWater remove a little wine from water, it removes virtually all dissolved solids because conventional filters like Brita have only one or two stages and ZeroWater has five” was accurate and provided a true description of the designs of the two filters.

Clorox appealed that finding to the NARB.

Following a hearing and its review of the evidence, the NARB panel recommended that Zero Technologies discontinue the challenged advertisement. The panel found that a significant number of consumers will understand “dissolved solids” to refer to contaminants in water, including harmful contaminants. The panel noted however, that its decision does not preclude Zero Technologies from using the challenged product demonstration in an advertisement that:

  •  Makes it clear the demonstration is a dramatization showing how the filters remove TDS from water;
  •  Makes it clear the demonstration is limited to the filters’ relative ability to remove TDS from water; 
  •  Clearly explains what TDS are (i.e., dissolved salt and minerals that affect water taste and appearance);
  •  Does not reasonably imply that TDS are harmful and/or always undesirable; and
  •  Does not reasonably imply that the Brita filter is generally ineffective.

The panel further determined that Zero Technologies provided a reasonable basis for its claim that the ZeroWater filter “removes virtually all dissolved solids because conventional filters like Brita have only one or two stages and ZeroWater has five” as long as that claim is made in the context of an advertisement that clearly explains what “dissolved solids” are.

Zero Technologies is in its advertiser’s statement, said that as a supporter of self-regulation, the company would “take the full findings of the Panel into account in future advertising. Zero thanks the Panel for its thoughtful review of the issues.”