NAD Examines Test Soil in Review of SC Johnson Claims; Recommends Advertiser Discontinue Claims

New York, NY – Nov. 17  2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., discontinue claims that two “Scrubbing Bubbles” products  clean “2X times better” and “better than” Clorox Clean-up.

The claims at issue were challenged by The Clorox Company.

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

Claims made in television, internet and print advertisements and on product packaging included:

•    Scrubbing Bubbles HD “cleans tough greasy [kitchen] soils two times better than Clorox Clean-Up.”
•    Scrubbing Bubbles HD “cleans greasy kitchen soils two times better than Clorox Clean-Up based on laboratory testing.”
•    Scrubbing Bubbles Bleach 5-in-1 “cleans greasy kitchen soils better than Clorox Clean-Up.”

As a preliminary matter, the advertiser said it voluntarily discontinued the commercials at issue before NAD opened its case. However, SCJ stated that it intended to continue advertising the fact that its Scrubbing Bubbles HD cleans greasy kitchen soils 2X better than Clorox Clean-up and the product packaging for its Scrubbing Bubbles Bleach 5-in-1 cleaner still bears the claim, “Cleans Better than Clorox Clean-up* (*on greasy kitchen soils)”.

Consequently, NAD found that while the commercials may have been discontinued, the claims were still ripe for review.

Key to this case was the question of what constituted consumer-relevant “greasy kitchen soils” and “tough grease and grime” and NAD considered whether or not the advertiser’s testing objectively examined the comparative performance of the parties’ products on the range of grease conditions that consumers normally encounter in their kitchens.

The “tough greasy” soil used in SCJ’s testing consisted of fat, protein and sugar and carbon black. SCJ’s “tough” grease soil consisted of vegetable oil, beef tallow, sugar, carbon black and egg albumin.

NAD was concerned that the advertiser’s soil was comprised primarily of sugar.  While NAD acknowledged that sugar may well be an element of kitchen grease, NAD questioned the consumer relevance – and tenacity – of a soil made up of 47% sugar.

NAD also questioned the potential impact of the soil’s composition on the comparative performance results found in SCJ’s test

SCJ did not provide NAD with the underlying research or data regarding the greasy soils typically found on stove tops in U.S. homes that was used to develop its “tough” soil sample.  Consequently, NAD was unable to assess the relevance of the advertiser’s test soil, except for the fact that it did not contain a starchy carbohydrate which NAD has found consumers associate as a component of kitchen grease on stove tops and counters.  NAD concluded that the absence of this consumer research rendered the advertiser’s testing insufficiently reliable to support its superior grease removal claims.

At the same time, NAD noted that even if it had found SCJ’s “tough” grease test soil to be consumer relevant, the advertiser would still be responsible for “all reasonable interpretations of its claims, not simply the messages it intended to convey.”

NAD determined that consumers could reasonably interpret the challenged advertisements to mean that Scrubbing Bubbles HD cleans 2X better than Clorox Clean-up on a variety (if not all combinations) of “tough kitchen grease” typically found on consumers’ counter and stove top surfaces.

NAD determined that testing on a singular “tough” greasy soil sample – even if demonstrated to be consumer relevant – would not be sufficient to support a claim of superior performance on the category of “tough kitchen grease.”

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its claims that Scrubbing Bubbles HD “cleans tough greasy [kitchen] soils two times better than Clorox Clean-Up” and Scrubbing Bubbles HD “cleans greasy kitchen soils two times better than Clorox Clean-Up.” NAD similarly recommended that the advertiser’s claim that its Scrubbing Bubbles Bleach 5-in-1 “cleans greasy kitchen soils better than Clorox Clean-up” be discontinued.

SC Johnson, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “appreciates the opportunity to participate in the self-regulatory process and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”