The Dial Corporation, a Henkel company, had challenged claims made by Unilever before the National Advertising Division (NAD).
Challenged claims, which appeared at the product website and Facebook page and on its YouTube channel, included:
• “Even moisturizing body washes can be harsh. New Dove is different.”
• “Even if you don’t feel it, most moisturizing body washes can strip your skin.”
• “Some body washes can be harsh. Only NEW Dove Body Wash is specially formulated with our gentlest cleansers ever to provide the proven best care.”
• “Wow, look at the [competitor] body wash paper. If it can strip this paper, imagine what it can do to your skin.” [Video with side-by-side product test]
• “If other body washes can strip this paper, imagine how harsh they can be to your skin.” [Video with side-by-side product test]
• “Doesn’t Your Skin Deserve The ‘Proven Best Care’?”
NAD examined also the implied claim that Dial body washes can inflict serious damage on skin and, at the close of its review, recommended that Unilever discontinue the challenged claims and imagery. Unilever appealed all of NAD’s findings to the NARB.
Following its review of the advertising, the NARB determined that labeling other body washes as “harsh,” in the context of the challenged advertisements, reasonably conveyed a message that some competing body washes are abrasive and/or will cause noticeable damage to the skin. The panel noted that testing conducted by Unilever, which compared the mildness of Dove Deep moisture to a representative sample of competing body washes, showed that Dove Deep Moisture was milder than most body washes but did not indicate that the less mild body washes were “harsh.”
Some of the challenged advertisements displayed a competing body wash container surrounded by barbed wire. The images, the panel found, overstated the actual differences in mildness between Dove Deep Moisture and competing products and reinforced the message that competing body washes can cause noticeable damage to the skin.
The challenged advertising included two videos that appeared to show a side-by-side product test comparing Dove Deep Moisture to several competing body washes. The videos featured an actress who stated that the paper used in the test is “designed to react like real [or your] skin.”
The panel determined that the test paper did not accurately simulate the composition of real skin and did not appropriately simulate actual consumer use of body washes. In addition, the panel found that the reliability of the test results was called into question by the fact that they were inconsistent with some of the other testing submitted by Unilever.
Regarding moisturization claims, the panel noted that Unilever primarily relied on Leg Controlled Application Technique testing to determine relative moisturization potential. The LCAT test methodology called for two daily wash sessions conducted 3-4 hours apart.
However, the record showed that the vast majority of consumers take no more than one shower each day, indicating that the LCAT test was conducted under conditions that did not represent ordinary consumer use of body wash.
Following its review, the panel recommended that Unilever discontinue claims that competing body washes are “harsh,” and also recommended that Unilever discontinue use of barbed wire and steel wool images with respect to competing body washes. The panel recommended that Unilever discontinue the challenged videos purporting to show a side-by-side test of Dove Deep Moisture and competing body washes.
Finally, the panel recommended that Unilever discontinue its “proven best care” claims for Dove Deep Moisture.
Unilever, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “appreciated the opportunity to present its position to the National Advertising Review Board. While Unilever is disappointed in the panel's decision, it respects the self-regulatory process and will take the panel's decision into consideration in future advertising.”