NARB Panel Recommends Kimberly-Clark Discontinue Certain Claims for Kotex ‘Sleek’ Tampons

New York, NY – August 19, 2014 – A five-member panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Kimberly-Clark Corporation discontinue certain claims for its U by Kotex Sleek tampons. The claims were challenged by The Procter & Gamble Company, maker of competing Tampax tampons.

NARB is the appellate unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

In the underlying case, P&G challenged the claims at issue before the National Advertising Division (NAD), an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation.

The challenged claims, which were made in television, website, and print advertisements, included the following:

  • “Unbeatable Protection†
    • †Super absorbency vs. leading brand, among those with a preference”
  • “Unbeatable Protection†
  • Sleek vs. Tampax Pearl
    • †Super absorbency vs. Tampax Pearl, among those with a preference”
  • “Preferred by girls over Tampax Pearl*
    • *Super absorbency”

NAD determined that the “unbeatable protection” claim was an “unsurpassed” claim that reasonably conveyed a broad message relative to tampon effectiveness. NAD found that Kimberly-Clark’s consumer-use test, in which participants alternatively used Kotex Sleek and Tampax Pearl super absorbency tampons, provided a reasonable basis for this claim.

NAD also found that results from a tampon leakage study submitted by Procter & Gamble were not more compelling than the Kimberly-Clark test.

NAD found that the “Preferred by girls” claim, in the context of the challenged advertising, would reasonably be understood by consumers as referring to young women and not all women. The NAD found that Kimberly-Clark’s consumer use test provided a reasonable basis for this claim.

Procter & Gamble appealed NAD’s findings.

Following a hearing and its review of the evidence, the NARB panel considered the messages conveyed to consumer by Kimberly-Clark’s “unbeatable protection” claim.

The panel noted in its decision that the evidence did not demonstrate any industry consensus regarding tampon “protection.”

The panel further noted that at least one of the messages reasonably conveyed by a claim of tampon “protection,” was that the tampon protects against leaks and found that Kimberly-Clark’s “unbeatable protection” claim was an objective claim that consumers would reasonably expect to be supported by objective data or evidence.

The panel then turned to Kimberly-Clark’s support for the claim – an at-home consumer use test in which participants alternatively used Kotex Sleek and Tampax Pearl super absorbency tampons during one menstrual cycle and later identified their preferences in response to a survey.

Following its review of the follow-up survey and responses, the panel determined that claims of “unbeatable protection,” as they were made in the context of the challenged advertisements, were objectively verifiable and should have been substantiated with objective testing that went beyond “simply asking women for their opinion as to which product protects better.”

The panel noted that Kimberly-Clark initially relied on the overall results of its consumer use test in support of its “preferred by girls” claim:

54% of participants (aged 14-22) preferred the Kotex Sleek tampon

32% of participants (aged 14-22) preferred the Tampax Pearl tampon

14 % of participants (aged 14-22) expressed no preference

However, the panel noted, “despite the statistically significant results favoring the Kotex Sleek tampon for women 14-22, the number of women in the 14-22 age category represented a relatively small percentage of the overall test participants.   The panel does not believe that test results for this small number of young women are nationally projectable, and overall the panel finds that Kimberly-Clark has not provided a reasonable basis for its broad ‘preferred by girls’ claims.”

The panel recommended that Kimberly-Clark discontinue the challenged “unbeatable protection” claim or modify it so that it does not imply the claim has been objectively proven and makes it clear – in the headline, sub-head or body of the claim and not in a disclaimer – that the claim being made reflects the opinion of women.

The panel also recommended that Kimberly-Clark discontinue the challenged “preferred by girls” claim.

Kimberly-Clark, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “will take all of the Panel’s recommendations into account in future advertising.  Kimberly-Clark is a strong supporter of the self-regulatory process and appreciates the Panel’s careful review of this advertising.”