NAD Finds Church & Dwight Can Support Certain Claims for ‘Slide’ Cat Litter; Recommends Company Modify, Discontinue Demonstration

New York, NY – Dec. 13, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has determined that Church & Dwight Co., Inc., provided a reasonable basis for stand-alone performance claims made in product packaging, website, and broadcast advertising for the company’s Arm & Hammer Slide Cat Litter. NAD recommended the advertiser modify or discontinue the comparative product demonstration featured in the television and website advertising.

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 claims at issue were challenged before NAD by The Clorox Company, the maker of Fresh Steps cat litters.

There were three key questions before NAD in this case – whether the advertiser made and supported:

  • An implied claim that Slide cat litter does not adhere to the litter box when it is emptied
  • A comparative performance claim between Slide litter and other litter products in the marketplace, including the challenger’s product, Fresh Step
  • A claim that Slide litter produces “rock hard clumps.”

First, NAD considered whether the external testing the advertiser commissioned supported the commercials’ message that Slide cat litter does not adhere to the litter box when it is emptied.  The challenger criticized the advertiser’s external testing on several grounds, and it also submitted testing of its own that it claimed was more reliable than the testing commissioned by the advertiser.  NAD concluded that the results of the advertiser’s external tests “were sufficient to support the advertiser’s monadic claims regarding the non-sticking attributes of its product,” including the implied claim that Slide cat litter does not adhere to the litter box when it is emptied

Next, NAD considered the challenger’s claims that the advertising implied that Fresh Step and other competing litters adhere excessively to the litter box, and that it is virtually impossible to remove adhered Fresh Step from a litter box. NAD also examined the express claim on Slide’s product packaging that Slide produces “rock-hard clumps.”

The challenger said that its Fresh Step clumping litter is a leading litter in the marketplace and utilizes its proprietary ClumpLock technology, a method that allows litter to lock in liquid and form hard clumps, allowing for easy litter box cleaning.  The challenger contended that the advertiser’s current campaign derides Fresh Step and other competing litters as being excessively adhesive to other litter boxes and hard to clean, while exaggerating the benefits of Slide.

The advertiser’s commercials feature humorous vignettes of cat owners engaged in various endeavors to remove stuck-on litter from their cat litter boxes, including the use of power tools. Both commercials also feature a side-by-side demonstration of two cat litter pans, one filled with “stuck on mess” and one that is empty, with the Arm & Hammer Slide logo above it. The voiceovers make statements like “no scraping or scrubbing,” “guaranteed 7 day odor-free home,” and “Hate changing your cat’s litter? Then change your cat’s litter—to new Arm & Hammer Slide.”

NAD noted in its decision that it found that the outlandish scenarios depicted in the commercials served to highlight the frustration which some cat owners face in emptying their cat litter boxes, and that those scenarios did not reasonably convey any disparaging message about Fresh Step or any other competing litter. However, the commercials’ side-by-side product demonstration, NAD said, “crystallized a comparative message that the problem of stuck-on cat litter caused by competing, unnamed cat litter products can be a frustrating and time-consuming problem for cat owners and that using Slide cat litter can eliminate this source of frustration.”

Although NAD recognized it was not the advertiser’s intent draw a comparison against any specific competitor, NAD determined that consumers could reasonably understand from the demonstration that the “stuck on mess” was representative of competitive cat litter products in the marketplace.

Prior NAD cases have held that comparative claims against an unnamed competitor must be substantiated as to as significant portion of the market or qualified to expressly state the basis of the comparison.  In addition, when using a comparative demonstration to show differences in a product’s performance, advertisers should be careful not to overstate the extent of any demonstrated superiority.  Here, the advertiser compared the performance of its litter against only two offerings in the highly-segmented cat litter marketplace.

NAD did not find that the product demonstration was supported by the advertiser’s testing.

Further, NAD was troubled by the use of a light font disclaimer on a light background during the product demonstration to communicate that the “Dramatization reflects cleaning after 24 hours.”

NAD determined that the advertiser could support its stand-alone performance claims, including that “Slide produces rock hard clumps,” but recommended the company discontinue the comparative product demonstration featured in its television advertisement or modify it to expressly and clearly communicate the basis of the comparison and clearly and conspicuously disclose the 24-hour timeframe.

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.