The ad in question states "It's amazing what your mouth goes through, and brushing alone isn't enough. Try the Listerine routine for 21 days and if you don't love how clean your mouth feels we'll give you your money back. Listerine Total Care. For total oral health."
The initial challenge was whether the claim "brushing alone isn't enough" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Thus, the Advertising Standards Authority stepped in. It considered that consumers would understand the claim to mean that it was generally accepted within the dental community that brushing alone was not sufficient to maintain oral health, and that a mouthwash should also be used.
Despite J&J providing a host of studies as evidence, the ASA concluded that it had not been provided with evidence that it was generally accepted within the dental community that the use of a mouthwash was necessary to maintain oral health, and therefore gave the ad the chop.
Johnson & Johnson said the claim could be substantiated and was not misleading, providing a survey of adult dental health showing that despite 75 per cent of the population brushing their teeth at least twice a day, and a further 23 per cent brushing once a day, there were still high incidences of oral health issues.
The consumer goods manufacturer also said that many long-term studies had been carried out and they demonstrated the efficacy of Listerine in reducing plaque bacteria compared with brushing alone.
“One of the studies concluded that the benefits of the mouthwash had sufficient value compared to current practises that they should be added to oral hygiene regiments,” said an advertiser statement.
“They said studies showed that Listerine could reduce plaque bacteria to a greater degree than brushing alone and the effect lasted for a number of hours after use,” it continued, and was accompanied by ten studies to support the claim.
Furthermore; J&J denied any professional involvement or endorsement, and although commercial radio's advertising clearance body the RACC said they were satisfied with the substantiation submitted prior to acceptance for broadcast, it was not enough to convince the ASA.