NAD Recommends Reckitt Benckiser Discontinue “No Stretching, Shrinking, or Fading” Claims for Its Woolite Laundry Detergent, Following P&G Challenge

New York, NY – August 14, 2019 – Following a challenge by The Procter & Gamble Company, the National Advertising Division recommended that Reckitt Benckiser, LLC discontinue monadic and comparative performance claims, efficacy claims, and product demonstrations for its Woolite Laundry Detergent. The challenged express and implied claims appeared in television commercials, online advertising (including YouTube videos), in-store materials, third-party websites, and on packaging for various Woolite liquid laundry detergent including Woolite Gentle Cycle, Woolite Darks, Woolite Delicates, Woolite Baby and Woolite Active Wear.

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 challenge centered around the following core claims, with wording variations across media:

  • “No Stretching, Shrinking, or Fading.”
  • “Keeps the Clothes You Love Looking Like New Even After 30 Washes.”
  • “Clothes Look New For Longer.”
  • “Brings Back the Color”/”Revives Color.”
  • “Removes Pilling & Fuzz”/”Smooths Fibers.”

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claim, “No Stretching, Shrinking, or Fading” in both monadic and comparative contexts, as well as the accompanying product demonstrations.

First, with regard to the “No Stretching, Shrinking, or Fading” claim in a monadic context, NAD determined that it conveys an absolute message that clothes washed in Woolite will not experience any shrinking, stretching, or fading. NAD concluded that the advertiser’s testing was not a good fit for the challenged claim.  The advertiser itself acknowledged that the testing was intended to support the claim that Woolite itself would not cause the referenced dimensional changes or fading, not that the garment would not experience any changes at all. NAD further determined that the disclaimer “*Woolite won’t cause stretching, shrinking or fading” was ineffective to qualify the claim because the message that washing itself (i.e. the overall mechanical process) can cause stretching, shrinking and fading is contrary to the main claim; and that the disclosures were not effective because they were not clear and conspicuous.

Further, as with the monadic claim, NAD determined that the comparative claims “No Stretching,” “No Shrinking,” and “No Fading,” which appear in various online advertising, each in conjunction with a product demonstration, reasonably convey that clothing washed in Woolite will not experience the shrinking, stretching or fading that would otherwise occur if the compared product was used.  NAD determined that this narrow evidence – which only related to one attribute and the specific piece of clothing shown in the demonstration – was inadequate to support the advertiser’s broad “No Stretching,” “No Shrinking,” and “No Fading” claims which reasonably convey that any clothing washed in the compared detergent would experience similar results. 

NAD noted that both the monadic and comparative versions of the “No stretching, shrinking, or fading” claim were paired with product demonstrations in Woolite’s online and television advertising. NAD was concerned that these depictions may convey inaccurate messages to consumers concerning the product performance capacity of Woolite on its own, as well as the comparative performance of other competing products.  The advertiser acknowledged that the demonstrations only depict changes to the clothing washed in competing product or in water, with no changes to the clothing washed in its own product.  Additionally, the advertiser did not provide testing data on a representative variety of fabric types for its comparative claims.

NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue the claims, “Keeps Clothes Looking Like New After 30 Washes” and “Keeps Your High-Tech Fabrics Looking Like New for 30 Washes.”  NAD determined that the advertiser’s testing did not properly fit the challenged claims because they were an express comparison to “new” clothes, but the testing compared fabrics washed in Woolite to other washed fabrics. NAD noted that, in this case, where the claim makes explicit reference to “30 washes” it should be supported by data demonstrating the benefit at that specific time point.

With regard to the claim “Clothes Look Like New For Longer,” NAD determined that it conveys a broad message of superiority, and one that naturally begs the question, “longer than what?”  Although the advertiser stated that it would add a disclosure explaining the basis for the implied claim, it failed to provide NAD with the disclosure or explain the basis of the comparison.  Consequently, NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.

Finally, NAD determined that the claims “Brings Back The Color”/”Revives Color” and “Removes Pilling & Fuzz”/”Smooths Fibers”/”Smooths Rough Fibers” convey objective performance messages regarding Woolite’s ability to improve the color of fabric, remove pilling, and smooth fabric.  NAD found the advertiser’s data insufficient to support these messages and recommended that the claims be discontinued.  NAD noted that it was unable to confirm the reliability of the advertiser’s test results or the conclusions drawn from them because the advertiser did not provide NAD with any data, raw or otherwise, regarding the actual test results, only the statements of conclusion.

In its advertiser’s statement, Reckitt Benckiser stated that it “is a strong supporter of NAD and the self-regulatory process and, therefore, agrees to comply with the decision concerning the claims and use of disclaimers.” 5