NAD Reviews ‘Compare To’ Claim from B&L, Wal-Mart Following Alcon Challenge

New York, NY – Feb. 24, 2015 – The National Advertising Division has determined that “compare to” claims made by Bausch & Lomb, Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., on packaging for “Equate” contact lens products are not comparative performance claims requiring substantiation. Rather, NAD found the challenged language invited consumers to try Equate value products and compare them with brand-name counterparts.

However, NAD recommended that certain product-packaging claims be modified to avoid conveying the unsupported message that Equate Moisture Last provides 16+ hours of comfort.

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

Equate private-label multipurpose contact lens solutions are manufactured by Bausch & Lomb but sold under Wal-Mart’s Equate brand name.  The challenger in this case, Alcon Laboratories, Inc., took issue with the “compare to” statements on product packaging for Equate MPS and Equate Moisture Last product packaging which refer to the challenger’s “Opti-Free RepleniSH” and “Opti-Free Pure Moist” products.

The challenger noted that the advertisers recently changed Equate product packaging colors to blue and green – the same colors that dress Alcon product packaging – and display Equate products in close proximity to Alcon’s Opti-Free products on Wal-Mart store shelves.

Taken together, the challenger maintained the “compare to” statement does not merely invite consumers to compare the Equate product to the named brand-name product.  Instead, the “compare to” statement reasonably conveys the unsupported message that the Equate products are equivalent to the Alcon products in terms of formulation and efficacy.

NAD noted in its decision that the determination as to whether a “compare to” claim is a comparative performance claim or an “invitation” to compare products depends on the context in which the “compare to” claim appears.

In this case, the “compare to” claims were found on the front of the package in the top right corner and appeared inside a yellow circle in large blue type. The claims were removed from product performance claims and attributes, which were featured in white type. Given the context, NAD determined that the challenged language invited consumers to try the product, but did not constitute comparative performance claims requiring substantiation.

NAD also found that the claim “16+ hours of moisture,” which appeared on the front panel of the Equate Moisture Last product packaging, reasonably conveyed the message that the product provides 16+ hours of comfort.  While NAD determined that the claim, standing alone, was supported, NAD noted that the claim appeared in close proximity to the claim “Retains moisture for comfort from insertion to removal.”  As a result, Equate Moisture Last’s 16+hour moisture-related benefit was linked to all-day comfort, a message that was not supported by the evidence in the record.

NAD recommended the advertisers modify product packaging for Equate Moisture Last to ensure that the claims “Retains moisture for comfort from insertion to removal” and “16+ hours of moisture” do not appear in close proximity to each other and that future advertising avoid conveying the unsupported message that Equate Moisture Last provides 16+ hours of comfort.

The companies, in their advertiser’s statement, noted their appreciation for advertising industry self-regulation and said they would take NAD’s findings into account in future advertising.