A TV ad, for Sure Invisible Black+White deodorant, stated "Trust the experts with our superior Black and White protection … superior to Nivea against yellow stains …” and also showed a bar chart entitled ‘Yellow Stain Protection’ with a higher reading for a Sure product than a Nivea one.
After Beiersdorf challenged whether the ad's claim could be substantiated, the ASA ruled it could not be shown again in its current form.
“We concluded that the ad had implied Sure Invisible Black+White antiperspirant was a superior product for black and white protection and that women would experience a noticeable effect as a result of everyday wear, but that this implication had not been substantiated,” says the ASA in a statement.
“The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Unilever UK Ltd to ensure that all objective claims, including implied claims, were supported by appropriate substantiation.”
In its defence, Unilever explained that the ad represented a new formula of Sure Invisible Black+White, which offered improved yellow stains protection compared to the previous formula and the best protection against white marks and yellow stains within the Sure range.
The consumer goods giant drew upon independent testing that had also shown that Sure Invisible Black+White offered better anti-yellow stains protection compared to Nivea Invisible Black and White, the leading competing product.
Unilever believed it was clear that the claim ‘our superior black and white protection’ referred to the advertised product as the best for black and white protection (the protection of black clothes against white stains and white clothes against yellow stains) within the Sure brand range and sent studies to show that testing had been carried out that confirmed this message.
It also pointed out that the claim used 'our' to indicate that the claim was aimed at products within the Sure range, and the comparison to Nivea was to give highlight its effectiveness in the market.
The ad had been approved by Clearcast due to studies provided; however the UK watchdog, although acknowledging Unilever's argument that the ad represented two distinct claims, says that viewers were likely to infer from the ad as a whole that Sure Invisible Black+White was the superior product available in terms of black and white protection.
The ASA also acknowledged the many studies Unilever sent through, but deemed it could not appear again in its current form.
It is not the first time Unilever and Beiersdorf have duelled in the deodorants arena after the former reported the German company to the courts in France over similarities of deodorant products, which led to Beiersdorf amending its packaging and reaching an agreement with the Anglo-Dutch firm.