NAD Finds Blue Buffalo Commercials Do Not Falsely Denigrate Competing Pet Foods; Recommends Some Modifications to Broadcast Ads

New York, NY – Feb. 14,  2018 – The National Advertising Division has determined that commercials for Blue Buffalo Company, Ltd., dog food did not falsely denigrate competing products made by Mars Petcare US, but did recommend certain modifications to the challenged advertising. NAD further determined that challenged print and internet advertising reasonably conveyed the truthful and accurate message that consumers should compare the ingredients in competing products and decide which one is best for their pets.

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

The advertiser advised NAD that it permanently discontinued the originally challenged commercials during its inquiry and that the revised commercial contains a super under the comparative ingredient lists which states “Both foods provide complete and balanced nutrition.”

In reliance on the advertiser’s representations, NAD did not review the originally challenged commercials on their merits. The voluntarily discontinued commercials will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

The revised commercials each featured a split-screen presentation of two women with their dogs – one who fed her dog either Cesar or Pedigree food and one who fed her dog Blue Buffalo food. The women were interviewed by an announcer who asked them what their dogs ate and whether they had read the labels of the respective products, and asked them to read aloud some of the ingredients. The ingredients were listed on each screen along with the super, “Both foods provide complete and balanced nutrition.”

The woman who fed her pet Blue Buffalo appeared cheerful as she read each ingredient while those who fed their dogs either Cesar and Pedigree looked quizzical and less than enthused.

In one version of the commercial, the Cesar-fed dog crossed the screen and brought his owner the Blue Buffalo pet food. In the Pedigree version, the Pedigree-fed dog crossed over to the Blue Buffalo side and put his paw on the actor’s leg. In both commercials, the announcer noted that “While both foods provide complete and balanced nutrition, 9 out of 10 Cesar feeders (or 8 out 10 [Pedigree feeders]) chose/prefer the ingredients in Blue Buffalo.”

Both commercials closed with the Blue Buffalo tagline: “Blue Buffalo – love them like family; feed them like family.”

NAD determined that the commercials were not falsely denigrating but communicated a preference claim that was supported by a consumer-preference study comparing the first five ingredients in the Pedigree, Cesar and Blue Buffalo products.

However, NAD did recommend that Blue Buffalo modify the advertising to indicate that the preference claims are based on a comparison of the top five ingredients in the products.

NAD further determined that the commercial featuring the Pedigree-fed dog– but not the commercial with the Cesar-fed dog – reasonably conveyed the message that dogs prefer the taste of the Blue Buffalo dog food product line over Pedigree’s dog food product line.

Blue Buffalo commissioned a canine palatability study which tested Pedigree Adult Roasted Chicken, Rice & Vegetable Flavor and Blue Life Protection Formula Chicken and Brown Rice Recipe.  The test results showed that dogs consumed over three times more of the Blue Buffalo product than the Pedigree product and that the dogs overwhelmingly chose Blue Buffalo first when feeding.   NAD recommended that the Pedigree commercials be modified to identify the specific variants tested to avoid conveying the message that dogs prefer the taste of Blue Buffalo over Pedigree on a brand-wide basis.

NAD determined that the challenged print and internet advertisements reasonably conveyed the truthful and accurate message that consumers should compare the ingredients in a Cesar dog food and a Blue Divine Delights dog food and decide which one is best for their pets.

Blue Buffalo, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.