NAD Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Modify, Discontinue Commercial for ‘Mucinex Fast Max Cold, Flu, and Sore Throat’

New York, NY – Feb. 8, 2018 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Reckitt Benckiser, Inc., discontinue a commercial for the company’s Mucinex Fast Max Cold, Flu, and Sore Throat product or modify the advertising to remove language that that Mucinex Fast Max Cold, Flu and Sore Throat treats “pretty much every symptom,” of colds and flu.

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 by The Procter & Gamble Company, a maker of competing cold, flu and sore throat products.

P&G challenged express and implied claims that included:

  • “Mucinex Fast Max is powerful enough to handle pretty much every symptom.”
  • “9 symptoms… One dose… Max Strength.”
  • Mucinex Fast Max treats “every symptom” of the common cold.
  • All Mucinex Fast Max products treat “every symptom” of the common cold.

The challenged commercial opens with a woman in her bathroom, emptying her medicine cabinet of various cold medicines and tossing them in the trash basket. The Mucinex character, “Mr. Mucus,” emerges from the shower and asks, “what are you doing, I thought you had a cold.”  The woman responds, “I don’t need all this.”  She holds up a bottle of Mucinex Fast Max Cold, Flu, and Sore Throat and says, “Mucinex Fast Max is powerful enough to handle pretty much every symptom.”  Mr. Mucus asks her to “name one,” to which she responds, “how about 9. Sore throat, cough, even [nodding to a towel with ‘Mr. Mucus’ embroidered on it].” The woman exits saying, “we’re done here.”

The challenged commercial explicitly states that the product treats “9” symptoms both in audio and onscreen, and the actress lists three symptoms as examples of the symptoms treated, a claim which is expressly true.   The actress also states that “Mucinex Fast Max is powerful enough to handle pretty much any symptom.”

However, NAD noted in its decision that the evidence in the record demonstrated that two of the top three symptoms typically experienced by cold and flu sufferers are runny nose and sneezing – symptoms that the advertised product does not treat. NAD determined that the claim, “Mucinex Fast Max is powerful enough to handle pretty much every symptom” was overly broad.

Further, NAD determined that one of the messages reasonably conveyed is that Mucinex Fast Max replaces other OTC medications that treat the most commonly experienced symptoms of a cold or flu – a claim that the evidence does not support.

NAD appreciated the advertiser’s effort to limit its claim to the nine symptoms treated by the advertised product via onscreen text, but determined that the list of symptoms appears too briefly to adequately qualify the broader net impression conveyed by the commercial as a whole.

Finally, following its review, NAD determined that the commercial featured only one visual reference to the Mucinex Fast Max variant being advertised, with no audio mention of the specific product name.

NAD concluded that, even if consumers could see it, the single visual reference to the specific product variant being advertised, in the confines of a 30-second commercial with no audio mention of the specific product name, was inadequate to sufficiently limit the advertiser’s “9 symptom relief” claim to the “Mucinex Fast-Max Cold, Flu and Sore Throat” product.

NAD recommended that the advertiser either discontinue its commercial or modify it to remove the language that Mucinex Fast Max Cold, Flu and Sore Throat treats “pretty much every symptom,”  and expressly limit the “9-symptom relief” claim to the advertised “Mucinex Fast-Max Cold, Flu and Sore Throat” variant.

Reckitt Benckiser took issue with certain of NAD’s findings, but said in its advertiser’s statement: “In the spirit of self-regulation, RB will comply with NAD’s recommendations and modify its advertising to address all of NAD’s concerns.”

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.