National Advertising Division Finds Dr. Squatch “No Harmful Ingredients” Claim Supported; Recommends Other Comparative Claims be Discontinued
Dec 05, 2023
New York, NY – December 5, 2023 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that Dr. Squatch, LLC provided a reasonable basis for its “no harmful ingredients” claim for its Dr. Squatch brand of personal care products for men and that certain challenged claims, in context, do not convey a disparaging message as to competing brands.
However, NAD recommended that Dr. Squatch discontinue its use of the skull and crossbones imagery in the context of the “no harmful ingredients” and “Sh*t List” claims, certain comparative claims, as well as certain other claims that NAD found to be falsely disparaging, unsubstantiated, and/or misleading, including:
- “For generations, traditional mass-market brands have been avoiding using natural ingredients in personal care products to make production cheaper and faster.”
- “I’m never going back to aluminum deodorant again!”
- “No X ALUMINUM X TRICLOSAN X PHTHALATES . . . can’t go back to that other junk”
- “Don’t hit the showers with neon goop that looks like a sports drink.”
- “I can even pronounce all the ingredients unlike my last deodorant.”
Dr. Squatch markets natural personal care products and distinguishes itself from other personal care competitors through edgy and attention-grabbing content.
The claims at issue, which appeared on the Dr. Squatch website, in video advertisements, social media, and videos on YouTube, were challenged by Unilever U.S., Inc., manufacturer of Dove brand cleansers and body washes.
No Harmful/Harsh Ingredient Claims
NAD determined that the following challenged claims are monadic or appear in a monadic context and do not convey the implied message that competing products are harmful or dangerous:
- “No harmful ingredients”
- “We never use harmful ingredients or harsh chemicals…”
- “Blocks out B.O. without harsh chemicals” and “doesn’t burn my armpits or leave me with a rank B.O. mid-day”
NAD further determined that Dr. Squatch’s monadic “no harmful ingredients” claim was supported and that it provided a reasonable basis for the message that Dr. Squatch deodorant does not contain harsh chemicals and would, therefore, not burn a user’s armpits.
However, NAD determined that the skull and crossbones imagery that often accompanies the “no harmful ingredients” and “Sh*t list” claims does more than merely underscore a monadic message. The imagery reasonably conveys a message related to potential harms of ingredients found in personal care products and, when displayed in the context of the “Sh*t List,” further conveys a message that the ingredients listed, which include non-chemical and non-harmful ingredients, are harmful. As there was no support in the record that the ingredients Dr. Squatch excludes from its products result in the type of harm associated with skull and crossbones, NAD recommended that such imagery be discontinued.
NAD concluded that a comparative superiority message was not communicated by:
- Squatch’s reference to the “Sh*t List,” and
- The claim “Meet our Sh*t List, a roster of ingredients that we vow to never use in any of our products. We refuse to cut corners and we avoid both common and lesser-known chemicals, synthetics, and preservatives that can have a range of adverse effects on your skin and body.”
“The Personal Care Industry Needs Cleaning” Message
NAD found that Dr. Squatch’s claim that “the personal care industry needs cleaning” will likely be understood as a high-level reference to Dr. Squatch’s commitment to products with natural ingredients. Therefore, NAD found that the claim does not reasonably convey the message that competing products are harmful.
“For Generations, Traditional Mass Market Brands Have Been Avoiding Using Natural Ingredients in Personal Care Products to Make Production Cheaper and Faster” Claim
NAD determined that Dr. Squatch did not provide a reasonable basis for the claim “For generations, traditional mass market brands have been avoiding using natural ingredients in personal care products to make production cheaper and faster” and recommended that it be discontinued.
NAD concluded that Dr. Squatch’s claims “I’m never going back to aluminum deodorant again!” and “No X ALUMINUM X TRICLOSAN X PHTHALATES . . . can’t go back to that other junk,” as they appear in a comparative context in the challenged advertising convey the misleading message that other deodorant products are unsafe or pose potential risks or dangers.
As there was no evidence in the record that conventional deodorants (made by Unilever or other major brands) contain triclosan or phthalates, or that brands that contain these ingredients or aluminum are dangerous or unsafe, NAD recommended that Dr. Squatch discontinue these claims.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision prevents Dr. Squatch from highlighting the ingredients its products do not contain in a purely monadic context.
Regarding the modified claim “Let’s talk aluminum . . . sure it’s great for wrapping up leftovers but we avoid it for skin and body,” NAD concluded that in a purely monadic context, the claim does not convey a disparaging message as to competing brands.
“Don’t Hit The Showers With Neon Goop That Looks Like A Sports Drink” Message
NAD determined that the claim “don’t hit the showers with neon goop that looks like a sports drink,” in context is falsely disparaging because it conveys an implied superiority message that mainstream personal care products (some of which may be brightly-colored) have a goop-like or unappealing consistency, do not smell good, and are ultimately worthless. NAD recommended that Dr. Squatch discontinue the challenged claim.
NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes Dr. Squatch from highlighting the benefits of its products, provided, however, the advertising does not otherwise convey the message that competing products are worthless.
“I Can Even Pronounce All The Ingredients Unlike My Last Deodorant” Claim
As Dr. Squatch did not provide any support for the challenged claim “I can even pronounce all the ingredients unlike my last deodorant” NAD determined that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for the claim and recommended that it be discontinued.
Finally, during the proceeding, Dr. Squatch agreed to permanently discontinue several challenged claims. Therefore, NAD did not review these claims on their merits and will treat them for compliance purposes as though NAD recommended they be discontinued and Dr. Squatch agreed to comply.
In its advertiser statement, Dr. Squatch stated that it “appreciates NAD’s careful review of its advertisements and will comply with NAD’s recommendations in its future advertising” although it disagrees with several of NAD’s findings.
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About BBB National Programs: BBB National Programs, a non-profit organization, is the home of U.S. independent industry self-regulation, currently operating more than a dozen globally recognized programs that have been helping enhance consumer trust in business for more than 50 years. These programs provide third-party accountability and dispute resolution services that address existing and emerging industry issues, create a fairer playing field for businesses, and a better experience for consumers. BBB National Programs continues to evolve its work and grow its impact by providing business guidance and fostering best practices in arenas such as advertising, child-and-teen-directed marketing, data privacy, dispute resolution, automobile warranty, technology, and emerging areas. To learn more, visit bbbprograms.org.
About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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