NAD Recommends Reynolds Modify, Discontinue Claims that Hefty Storage Bags Cost Less Than Ziploc, but Found TV AD Didn’t Disparage Competitor

New York, NY – Sept. 13, 2017  – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Reynolds Consumer Products, LLC modify or discontinue claims that the company’s Hefty storage bags cost less than Ziploc.

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

S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., the maker of competing Ziploc slider and pinch-and-seal bags, challenged claims that appeared in online, print and television advertising.

Claims at issue included:

  • “HEFTY COSTS LESS THAN ZIPLOC*”
    • (*“Nielsen Avg. Price/Bag vs. Ziploc Sliders, 52 wks ending 8/20/16.”)
  • “Save big. Hefty costs less than Ziploc.”

NAD considered also whether the advertising implied that Hefty slider bags cost less than Ziploc slider and pinch-and-seal-bags, that there is a substantial price difference between Hefty and Ziploc storage bags or that no reasonable consumer would choose Ziploc storage bags.

NAD first assessed whether the challenged advertising communicated a line claim against all Ziploc products or effectively limited the price comparison to Hefty and Ziploc slider bags.

In determining whether a line claim is conveyed, NAD noted, it considers a number of factors, including references to general brands, the specific copy language, and whether the imagery used in the advertisement effectively limits the claim or serves to extend its applicability to an entire line of products. Here, NAD determined that one of the messages reasonably conveyed by Reynolds’ television advertising was that Hefty “costs less” than the entire line of storage bags produced by Ziploc.

The advertising, NAD said, makes a general reference to “Ziploc” and “Hefty” without clearly identifying the basis of the comparison in the claim itself and did not expressly identify the specific Ziploc product being compared. Further, NAD found that the advertiser’s disclosures were inadequate to limit the price comparison to Ziploc slider bags.

The advertiser argued that because it makes only slider bags, consumers would understand that the “costs less” claims were limited to the slider bag product category. NAD did not agree.

NAD then considered whether the advertiser substantiated a more limited claim that Hefty slider bags cost less than Ziploc slider bags. The advertiser provided Nielsen pricing data for the 52-week span referenced in its advertising, as well as a 52-week span ending after the challenge was initiated. The evidence broadly revealed that in many of the retail outlets where both products are sold, Hefty slider bags did cost less than Ziploc slider bags. One notable exception, however, was wholesale club stores where consumers who purchased Ziploc Storage slider bags paid less on average than consumers who purchased Hefty Storage slider bags from other retail outlets.

NAD concluded that the claim “Hefty costs less than Ziploc” was unsupported. However, NAD found that the advertiser’s data was potentially sufficient to support a narrower product-specific and market-specific lower price claim.

Finally, NAD considered whether a television commercial that depicted a store cashier and a customer discarding Ziploc bags in favor of Hefty bag falsely disparaged Ziploc product. Given that there was no comparative performance message conveyed, NAD did not agree that the commercial was disparaging.

Reynolds, in its advertiser’s statement, took issue with NAD’s findings, but said the company would comply with the NAD’s recommendations.

“As always,” the advertiser said, “Reynolds is committed to the self-regulatory process, and in that spirit, will take the NAD’s recommendations into consideration when making claims in the future.”

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.