NAD Refers Advertising for Prestige Brands’ Nix Ultra Lice Removal System to FTC After Advertiser Declines to Discontinue ‘Kill’ Claims

New York, NY – April 3, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has referred advertising claims made by Prestige Brands for its Nix Ultra Lice Removal System to the Federal Trade Commission for further review after the company said it would not comply with NAD recommendations to discontinue claims that the product “kills” lice.

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 claims at issue in NAD’s review were challenged by Bayer HealthCare, maker of RID brand lice treatment products and included:

  • Kills Lice & Eggs
  • Kills Super Lice
  • Fast. Effective.
  • Pesticide Free. Non-toxic.
  • Easy Application.
  • Tough on lice. Gentle on Skin.
  • Nix Ultra 2-in-1 Lice Elimination System eliminates head lice eggs, including hard-to-kill Super Lice.
  • Nix Ultra kills lice and, unlike some lice treatments, kills eggs too.
  • Nix Ultra is specifically designed to eliminate hard-to-kill Super Lice, which have developed resistance to many traditional lice treatments.

NAD also reviewed a comparison chart for that displayed affirmative check marks for Nix Ultra but not RID Shampoo in the following categories:

  • Kills Super Lice
  • Kills Eggs
  • #1 Pediatrician Recommended Brand
  • #1 Pharmacist Recommended Brand
  • Exclusive Nix professional lice removal comb
  • Odorless
  • Free of Pesticides.

Fundamental to the challenge, NAD noted, is a disagreement between the parties about the meaning of the word “kill” in the context of a lice treatment performance claim.

The advertiser’s Nix Ultra Lice Removal System include a gel made of dimethicone mineral oil and a fine-tooth comb with 32 stainless steel prongs. Consumers are directed to saturate their hair with the gel, leave it on for 15 minutes, wash their hair, towel dry, and then carefully comb through hair in sections with the lice removal comb. The advertiser asserts that if consumers follow these instructions, they can eliminate lice infestations and “kill” the lice and nits on their head, even so-called “super lice.”

The challenger’s RID Shampoo contains ingredients approved by the Food and Drug Administration to kill lice through direct action.

NAD determined that, in the context of lice treatment product advertising, consumers could reasonably understand claims that a product “kills” lice or their eggs means that the pests are killed as a direct result of interaction with the product. NAD further concluded that  consumers may not consider the removal of live lice and nits from one’s head to be “killing” the pests, even if the lice and nits removed would eventually die.

NAD noted in its decision that consumers may choose a lice treatment based on its specific mechanism of action; given the role that mechanism of action can have in consumers’ purchasing decisions, advertising claims for lice treatment products should be crafted to avoid conveying the message that they treat lice infestation with a mechanism that they do not use.

NAD determined that to support a “kills lice” or “kills nits” claim, an advertiser would need to provide evidence that its product directly “kills” the pests as its mechanism for eliminating an infestation, not just evidence that it provides consumers with a way of effectively removing lice and/or nits from their scalp and hair.

NAD recommended the advertiser discontinue claims that Nix Ultra “Kills Lice,” “Kills Super Lice,” and “Kills Eggs.” However, NAD noted that nothing in the decision precludes the advertiser from making truthful and accurate claims about its product’s effectiveness at removing lice and nits from consumers’ heads or eliminating a lice infestation.

NAD further determined that it did not find the advertiser’s comparative chart presentation, in and of itself, to convey a falsely disparaging message regarding the efficacy of the challenger’s RID Shampoo product. Finally, NAD determined that the claims that Nix Ultra is “Free of Pesticides” and “Non-Toxic,” as well as the claim that RID Shampoo is not “Free of Pesticides,” are supported.

Prestige Brands, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “disagrees with the NAD’s finding that ‘eradicating,’ ‘eliminating’ or ‘curing’ a lice infestation is not tantamount to ‘killing’ lice and nits, and Prestige is declining to comply with NAD’s recommendations regarding the kills claim.”

As a result, NAD has referred the claims at issue the FTC for further review.

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.