NAD Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Discontinue Certain Challenged Claims for Air Wick Scented Oil

New York, NY – Nov. 20, 2019 – The National Advertising Division recommended that Reckitt Benckiser LLC discontinue certain challenged claims for Air Wick Scented Oil, following a challenge by The Procter & Gamble Company, maker of Febreze Air Fresheners. 

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The express claims challenged by P&G appeared in television and social media advertising, and included:

  • “You don’t live in one corner. Fragrance shouldn’t either. Air Wick’s new technology releases fragrance upwards and outwards, unlike Febreze. So now, you can fill every corner with Fragrance.”
  • “Upgrade to Air Wick.”
  • Air Wick is “The Only Scented Oil Warmer Designed to Fill Every Corner with Fragrance.”

P&G also argued that RB’s television commercial, which showed side-by-side depictions of the Air Wick and Febreze products plugged into an outlet against a wall and included the above-referenced claims, conveyed a series of implied claims about Air Wick’s efficacy and comparative performance.  However, during the pendency of the case, RB modified the challenged commercial to remove the comparison to Febreze and also agreed to modify the claim, “The Only Scented Oil Warmer Designed to Fill Every Corner with Fragrance” by removing the word “only.”  NAD noted that the voluntarily modified claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance or modification and the advertiser agreed to comply.

With those modifications in mind, NAD determined that the challenged commercial reasonably conveys at least two messages to consumers.  First, the advertising conveys a very literal message of performance based on the product’s design, namely that the product emits fragrance in an “upwards and outwards” direction, allowing the fragrance to travel throughout the room and evenly fill the four corners, as well as the space in between.  Second, NAD concluded that by describing the technology as “new” and presenting this new design and “upward and outwards” emission as a benefit that consumers can experience “now” if they choose to “upgrade” to Air Wick, the advertisement also conveys the message that Air Wick’s current device emits a fragrance in a manner that is superior to other products on the market that do not share its unique design.

NAD determined that this broad superiority message conveyed by the challenged commercial was not supported by RB’s limited evidence, the majority of which only related to its own devices.  Further, NAD determined that even if the advertising claims were clearly limited to a comparison between the current and previous versions of the Air Wick device, the evidence did not provide a reasonable basis for the claim that the new Air Wick Scented Oil device allows fragrance to spread in a more uniform manner, resulting in a better fragrance experience for the consumer. NAD noted that while the advertiser’s evidence provides reasonable confirmation that the product releases fragrance “upwards and outwards” as it was designed to do, the testing does not demonstrate that emitting fragrance in this specific manner makes a material difference to product performance.  Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims “You don’t live in one corner. Fragrance shouldn’t either. Air Wick’s new technology releases fragrance upwards and outwards. So now, you can fill every corner with Fragrance” and “Upgrade to Air Wick.”  However, NAD determined that the claim “upwards and outwards,” when used to describe the design of the device, was supported.

NAD determined that the modified claim “Designed to Fill Every Corner with Fragrance,” on its own, is a monadic claim that does not invite a comparison to another product or a substantial portion of other competitive products on the market. While NAD appreciated that the advertiser undertook instrumental testing in support of this claim, NAD was concerned that the test results may reflect a level of fragrance that was high enough to be detected by sensitive instruments, but at the same time too low to be perceptible to human consumers and consequently, not consumer relevant.  Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim “Designed to Fill Every Corner with Fragrance.”

In its advertiser’s statement, Reckitt Benckiser stated that it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations.”