The claims at issue, which appeared in online advertising, social media and on in-store materials for CeraVe skin care products, were challenged by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (Neutrogena).
In support of its claim that CeraVe is the “#1 dermatologist recommended skincare brand,” L’Oréal relied on data from an online survey of approximately 1,500 dermatologists, which recorded the number and percentage of dermatologists’ average weekly recommendations by brand name in the surveyed categories. For certain conditions like acne, the survey asks about brand recommendations in multiple product categories, for example, “Acne: Cleansers” and “Acne: Moisturizers/Treatments.” Certain survey categories are identified by particular skin conditions like “Eczema.” Other survey categories call for brand recommendations in a particular product category, which in some instances is tied directly to a specific condition (e.g., “Wart Remover”) and in other instances is not directly tied to a particular condition (e.g., “Male Oriented Skin Care Products”).
L’Oréal relied on the results from 33 of the 48 categories in the survey, which it considered relevant to consumers’ understanding of “skincare,” and omitted those for which dermatologists did not report any recommendations in the 12 months ending December 2019, March 2020, or May 2020, and those it deemed irrelevant to the common conception of “skincare.”
After evaluating the methodology of the survey, although NAD did not take issue with its general methodology or with the particular categories surveyed, NAD determined that it was not reliable because it did not adequately instruct respondents not to duplicate their total average weekly recommendations between and among categories and, therefore, created the possibility of double-counting or that dermatologists would record the same brand recommendation in different categories if the recommendation for a particular indication is applicable in multiple categories.
NAD further concluded that in the absence of more explicit instructions, the potential for double counting is increased due to the format of the survey and its degree of inherent imprecision.
For these reasons, NAD recommended that L’Oréal discontinue the claim that CeraVe is the “#1 dermatologist recommended skincare brand.”
NAD also recommended that L’Oréal discontinue the claim that CeraVe is the “#1 recommended non-OTC moisturizer for acne-prone skin.”
NAD noted that while L’Oréal’s use of the term “non-OTC” is an effort to accurately distinguish its products from acne drug products sold without a prescription, the claim is based on survey data which called for dermatologists’ Average Weekly Recommendations for “OTC” Acne Moisturizer/Treatments and not “Non-OTC” products. NAD determined that “Non-OTC” may also be understood by consumers as a reference to prescription drug products instead of cosmetic products like CeraVe’s. Without a more accurate descriptor such as “non-prescription,” NAD concluded that there was a poor fit between the substantiation and the claim as it appears.
NAD said, nothing in NAD’s decision precludes L’Oréal from making truthful and non-misleading claims about dermatologists’ recommendations for its skincare products based on reliable survey data.
In its advertiser’s statement, L’Oréal stated that it will “appeal NAD’s decision that the underlying survey was not sufficiently reliable to support a ‘#1 Dermatologist Recommended Skincare Brand’ claim for the CeraVe brand without revised instructions.” L’Oréal further stated that it “will take NAD’s recommendations into account for future advertising” regarding the claim that CeraVe is the “#1 recommended non-OTC moisturizer for acne-prone skin.”