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Compared to What? Controls in Advertising Claims Substantiation

Ennis, D. M. and Rousseau, B. (2021). IFPress, 24(2) 3-4.



Monadic product efficacy claims occur quite frequently in claims support. Some of these claims may be termed ‘puffery’ among the legal community because the basis for the claim defies substantiation, such as “a natural fit” for an infant diaper . Other claims may afford an opportunity for substantiation or refutation, especially if they include a quantification of the performance. For example, “80% of consumers report that our toothpaste whitens your teeth” or “60% of consumers report that our product reduces the appearance of wrinkles.” In previous reports we discussed how to substantiate comparative count-based and proportion-based claims. Similar statistical methods could be applied to monadic quantitative claims. In non-comparative tests, an issue arises concerning the meaning of the count and the meaning of the statement if a count is not used, such as “reduces wrinkles.” These types of claims beg the question: Compared to what?


In this technical report we consider when it is important to answer that question and provide support for claims that could be challenged in litigation brought by competitors, by the FTC, or challenged before the NAD, which is the self-regulatory body that adjudicates advertising in the USA.


The ASTM’s Standard Guide for Sensory Claim Substantiation contains general recommendations for collecting evidence to support a claim, from the data collection to the analytical approach and data interpretation. The Guide is primarily focused on comparative claims. One area not currently covered in depth in the Guide involves monadic efficacy claims with or without quantification of the claims. In this technical report, we describe a situation in which a control condition is necessary to provide proper evidentiary support for claims of this type

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