NAD Recommends Philips Oral Health Discontinue Challenged Claims for Sonicare Electric Toothbrushes; Advertiser to Appeal to NARB

New York, NY – April 25, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Philips Oral Healthcare, LLC, discontinue certain claims for the company’s Sonicare Electric Toothbrushes, including claims that suggest the sound made by a brush correlates to superior efficacy. The advertiser has said it will appeal NAD’s findings to the National Advertising Review Board.

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

The Procter & Gamble Company, maker of Oral-B electric toothbrushes, challenged claims made in broadcast advertising for Sonicare Electric Toothbrushes, including:

  • “Compared to Oral-B 7000, Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum removes significantly more plaque.”
  • “Removes significantly more plaque* versus Oral-B [7000]” (*Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum with InterCare brush head, in deep clean mode, after a single use vs. Oral-B 7000)
  • “This is the sound of sonic technology cleaning deep between teeth. [Powers on Oral-B 7000…] Hear the difference?”

NAD also considered whether the advertising implied that:

  • All Sonicare toothbrushes provide superior long-term plaque removal and oral health benefits versus Oral-B 7000, regardless of brush head.
  • Sonicare FlexCare Platinum provides superior long-term plaque removal and oral health benefits versus Oral-B 7000, regardless of brush head.
  • Sonicare’s sonic technology cleans deep/removes plaque between teeth better than Oral-B 7000 regardless of brush head.
  • The respective “sounds” of the Sonicare and Oral-B technology correlate to superior efficacy for the Sonicare brushes and brush heads.

NAD reviewed both 15- and 30-second version of Phillips’ “Start Your Day” commercials and determined that the advertising conveyed an overarching message of long-term plaque removal and improved oral health versus Oral-B rechargeable toothbrushes and that the claimed superiority would extend beyond a single use of the brush, messages that NAD determined the advertiser could not support.

Following its review of the advertiser’s evidence, NAD recommended that Philips discontinue the claims, “Compared to Oral-B 7000, Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum removes significantly more plaque.” And “Removes significantly more plaque* versus Oral-B [7000]” (*Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum with InterCare brush head, in deep clean mode, after a single use vs. Oral-B 7000).

Regarding the advertiser’s “sound of sonic technology” claims, NAD was unpersuaded by the advertiser’s argument that consumers would only take away a message that the Sonicare FlexCare has a more pleasant sound than the Oral-B 7000. NAD observed that Philips linked the sound of its sonic technology with a specific comparative performance benefit in the challenged advertising. As NAD noted in its decision, the voiceover stated, “[t]his is the sound of Sonicare technology cleaning deep between teeth” as the Sonicare device was turned on and an animated simulation depicted the FlexCare Platinum forcefully pushing water between teeth.

NAD concluded that at least one of the reasonable messages conveyed was one of superior efficacy of the FlexCare Platinum versus the Oral-B 7000 – that the sound of sonic technology correlates to superior performance benefit of Sonicare over Oral-B at “cleaning deep between teeth” – a message that NAD determined was unsupported by the record.  NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue the claims.

Phillips, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “appreciates the NAD’s consideration of this challenge but respectfully disagrees with the NAD’s findings and recommendation regarding the Start You Day advertisement and will appeal the NAD’s decision to the NARB.”

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.