NAD Finds Unilever’s Claim That Suave Essentials Products Offer “Fragrances as Beautiful As Bath & Body Works” Constitutes Mere Puffery.

New York, NY – Dec. 6, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has concluded that express claims made by Unilever United States, Inc. on product packaging and in online advertising for its Suave Essentials Body Washes constituted puffery and did not require substantiation. L Brands, Inc., maker of competing body washes and lotions, challenged Unilever’s claims including that its Suave Essentials Body Washes and Body Lotions offered:

  • “Fragrances as beautiful as Bath & Body Works”
  • “same great fragrance as” the fragrances in Bath & Body Works Body Lotion variants.

In an earlier proceeding between the parties, Unilever claimed that specific Suave body wash variants had “Fragrance As Appealing As [specific Bath & Body Works variants].” In that case, NAD determined that this was an objectively provable claim requiring substantiation. NAD found the statement at issue to be a claim because the language expressly referred to consumers’ preference (i.e., the products ‘appeal’ to consumers) based on a particular product attribute (i.e., ‘fragrance’). As such, NAD concluded that these were, in fact, parity claims and not mere “invitations to try” the advertiser’s product. In the absence of supporting evidence, NAD recommended the claims be discontinued. On appeal, The National Advertising Review Board agreed with NAD.

In this latest case, NAD concluded that the statement, “fragrances as beautiful as Bath & Body Works,” as it appears on Suave body wash packaging and in online advertisements, is puffery and does not require substantiation. NAD found that as part of a generalized comparison between the brands, consumers would not understand the word “beautiful” to be a reference to consumers’ preferences. Indeed, NAD found that the statement conveys a message about Unilever’s own opinion about the products’ fragrances, not that of consumers. While the term “appeal” was deemed a direct reference to consumers’ liking, NAD found the term “beautiful” to refer to a more ethereal quality of the product that is not a measure of consumer preference. 

As for the claims that specific Suave body lotion variants had the “Same Great Fragrance As” [specific Bath & Body Works body lotion variants] Unilever informed NAD that these claims are in the process of being discontinued. The voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.

In its Advertiser’s Statement, Unilever stated that it appreciated NAD’s close review of its advertising and was pleased with NAD’s finding that its “fragrances as beautiful as Bath & Body Works” is puffery and does not require substantiation.

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.