The Better Business Bureau’s advertising arm has recommended that The Sherwin-Williams Company modify or discontinue certain odor-elimination claims for the company’s Dutch Boy Refresh Paint.
The company will appeal some of the National Advertising Division's (NAD) findings to the National Advertising Review Board, according to a news announcement issued by NAD. A Sherwin-Williams spokeswoman said the company had no comment on the action or on NAD's release.
NAD is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum. In a statement released March 16, the agency said it had examined advertising claims made by Sherwin-Williams in print, point-of-sale, Internet, labeling, and television advertising.
“The claims at issue were challenged by PPG Architectural Finishes Inc., which makes competing paint products,” NAD said.
The advertising claims challenged included:
• “eliminates household odors”
• “continuously eliminates odors day after day”
• “The first and only paint with Arm & Hammer Odor Eliminating Technology and 0 VOC. By painting with Refresh, not only will you be using a premium paint, but you will also be using the largest area of your home to eliminate odors day after day.”
According to NAD, the broadcast advertising featured a couple visiting another couple who have a cat and a dog. The visitors sniff unappreciatively while the announcer states that 64% of people do not notice odor in their own homes. The commercial cuts to the home owners re-painting one of their walls in Refresh paint while the pets look on.
The announcer states that Refresh paint “continuously eliminates odors day after day” and that the paint “adds beauty” and “eliminates odors.”
The point-of-sale material included a diagram that depicts malodor particles near a wall before and after an application of Refresh paint. The diagram showed many malodor particles in the “before” sketch and only a few in the “after” depiction.
A print advertisement featured the Refresh paint can with a large Arm & Hammer seal, circled by “Odor Eliminating Technology” text in the left-hand corner. On the right side, larger text stated: “64% of people don’t notice odors in their own home. Are you one of them?” Below was the line “Adds beauty. Eliminates household odors.”
All of the Refresh paint advertisements featured the “odor-eliminating technology” symbol.
NAD said Sherwin-Williams, through an expert, told it that “all latex paints have odor-absorption properties that are directly related to the size of the area of the surface painted and the chemical reactivity,” NAD reported.
“In the case of the advertiser’s Refresh paint, the advertiser maintained that it joined with Arm & Hammer to create a paint that contains additives with odor-binding capacities that are unique to the Refresh formula.
“Specifically, the advertiser claimed that the absorbent additives were carefully chosen based on their odor-eliminating chemistry, large porosity, solubility and molecule size. Paints made with these particular odor-eliminating materials are designed to increase the interaction of odor molecules with the odor neutralizing or trapping ingredients.”
In reaching its decision, NAD said it had reviewed evidence that included a PPG consumer survey that was designed to assess how the Sherwin-Williams claims were interpreted. NAD said it also reviewed lab tests provided by both companies and field tests conducted by Sherwin-Williams.
After the review, NAD determined that PPG’s consumer-survey data was not sufficiently reliable to support its position regarding consumer understanding of Sherwin’s claims.
In the absence of reliable evidence, NAD routinely steps into the role of the consumer to determine the reasonable messages conveyed by the adverting.
“In this case, NAD concluded that the claims ‘eliminates household odors,’ ‘continuously eliminates household odors day after day,’ and ‘odor eliminating technology’ conveyed the message that Refresh paint will reduce odors to a level that is not detectable to the average consumer during the useful life of the paint,” the agency said.
“NAD further determined that the advertiser’s field and laboratory tests did not provide sufficient evidence to support such claims and recommended that the advertiser either discontinue the claims or modify the claims to better reflect the test results….”
Sherwin-Williams, in its advertiser’s statement, said it disagreed with NAD’s finding regarding the claims “eliminates household odors” and “odor-eliminating technology.” The company said it would appeal those findings to the National Advertising Review Board, according to NAD.
Sherwin-Williams also took issue with the NAD’s evaluation of the company’s laboratory testing, “which was conducted in accordance with accepted procedures in this and many other industries,” NAD’s statement said.
“However, the company said it will discontinue its ‘continuously, day after day’ claims, and will take the NAD’s findings into consideration in its future advertising for Refresh Paint,” the statement said.