NAD decided two recent cases reiterating its discomfort and general dislike for disparagement claims. This is not surprising since NAD is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory group. The FTC tells us that comparative claims are appropriate as long as truthful, but the NAD tends to give the broadest possible interpretation to claims that directly attack a competitor and heightened substantiation requirements. AT&T challenged Comcast’s Tired Wires campaign, in which ads called U-Verse a collection of “tired wires” and had a grumpy Tired Wires character complaining about speed and overload. Comcast had testing that showed AT&T’s internet speeds on its U-Verse service were diminished if a customer was watching two or more HGTV shows at the same time. AT&T did its own testing that came to the same conclusion. NAD found that Comcast was not clear and Tired Wires guy implied that AT&T was slow and always slower than Comcast. Similarly, NAD recommended Halo Purely for Pets modify its ads that implied its dog food from fresh chicken was safer than dog food made from chicken meal or chicken by-product meal. Some of its ads said chicken by-products should be “shunned” and that chicken meal was not wholesome. It also did not like the statement that Halo was the “only brand awarded the National Canine Cancer Foundation
Seal of Excellence — because real-food ingredients make a difference”. Halo was the only pet food to receive this recognition but NAD found the latter statement falsely implied that real chicken ingredients reduce a pet’s risk of cancer. So ask your marketing clients if they really need to hammer home their message by engaging in an attack campaign, because your competitor is almost certain to counterattack be it in their ads or with their lawyers.