Nivea reprimanded after misleading product claim
*This article has been updated to include new information on the ruling.
Beiersdorf, who owns Nivea, has been ordered to remove the line “longer lasting care” from advertising materials for their Rich Nourishing Body Lotion after ASASA (Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa) found its claims to be misleading.
Rival company Unilever, who owns brands such as Vaseline and Dove, lodged a complaint against Nivea, submitting videos of a TV ad by Nivea for its Rich Nourishing Body Lotion as evidence.
In one version of the ad, the voiceover states "...there’s no need to add extra oil. Nothing feels like the longer lasting care of Nivea Rich Nourishing Body Lotion”.
Another version of the ad (which has now been made private) also has the additional claim, "The best care for dry skin...” and a post on Nivea SA’s Facebook page from April 6 (which has not yet been deleted) also includes the slogan “longer lasting care”.
Even though the Facebook post and point-of-sale material (a specialised form of sales promotion that is found near the till in stores) have an asterisk after “longer lasting care” and a disclaimer is found at the bottom of the advert saying that the product was “tested on 593 urban female skin care users”, it was found that the disclaimer wasn’t enough to back up the statement.
Unilever said that “longer lasting care” was a claim of the product’s efficacy, and therefore, must be backed up by clinical data - and not “consumer perception data” - as stated in the complaint.
Unilever also did its own testing with three of their own brands versus Nivea: Vaseline, Dawn and Dove.
The results indicate that all products were either better or on par with Nivea – thus contradicting its “longer lasting” claim.
Because the ASASA found that the term “longer lasting care” is misleading, Nivea has been told to withdraw the claim “in its current format” and that the company needs to withdraw it within the deadlines decided by the ASASA.
The ASASA, however, dismissed the complaint that "you don’t have to add extra oil” is disparaging to Nivea’s competitors.
So what does this mean for the brand?
W24 spoke to Solly Moeng, a Reputation Management Advisor at DonValley and a columnist for Fin24, about Nivea’s situation and how this ruling will affect them.
“It is not the first time that such a complaint has been made against a claim by a prominent brand. A few years ago, someone else complained about Woolworths’ use of the phrase ‘We love our cows’ that used to appear on its milk cartons.
The retailer had to withdraw the claim as it couldn’t demonstrate what it meant by that.
There were also attempts to go at Woolworths for claiming that its eggs were ‘free range’. Some people pushed to ask whether ALL of its eggs, including the ones in prepared foods, e.g. sandwiches, were ‘free range’.
Others wanted to know what definition of ‘free range’ the retailer relied on. They insisted that the SA Poultry Association’s definition did not go far enough, that Woolworths needed to lead and stretch it.
“All this means that we live, increasingly, in a world where consumers are informed and opinionated, compare, talk back, are discerning, and no longer take promotional messages at face value and treat them as gospel truth that cannot be questioned.
Advertising claims that many brands got away with for many years without being questioned are now being questioned.
In a world where corporate values increasingly get taken for granted, consumers take brands to task by asking them a simple question: ‘What do you mean by that?’
“But consumers are not the only ones who do this. The case of Nivea versus Unilever is an interesting one. The latter feared that if Nivea was allowed to keep claiming that its product provided “longer lasting care”, consumers would end up believing the claim, which would occupy big space in their minds and end up being associated only with Nivea.
Unilever did not necessarily go this route for the sake of the consumer. It is more likely that it did it to prevent the competition from being the sole occupant of that space. The consumer will benefit by default, of course, as there is also the substance of the ASASA’s judgment.
Brands cannot simply make claims without substantiating them with facts, especially where the health and well-being of consumers might be placed in jeopardy.
“All of this also means that brands have to think very seriously before they place claims on their products and services. It is good for the consumer and it is good for healthy competition.”
W24 has contacted Nivea for comment, but they were unavailable. UPDATE: See statement from Nivea at the bottom of the article. *
UPDATE: In a statement sent to W24, Kim Morgan-Verlaque, General Counsel: Africa for Unilever, said:
"Unilever uses advertising and marketing as a way to engage with consumers on issues that matter to them. Marketing and advertising have many consumer benefits. However, the very power of marketing communications means that they must be used responsibly. We are committed to making sure that our advertising and marketing will always be “legal, decent, honest and truthful” so that we can foster an environment where consumers can continue to trust the brands and products we sell…and the benefits they have to offer.
"The ASA is our industry ‘watchdog’ and it is common practice for complaints of this nature between competitors in the FMGC industry to be referred to the ASA . They in turn provide a valuable service in ensuring that advertising is honest and fair. Where we feel that a competitor has overstepped boundaries in terms of product claims and advertising in a way that may mislead the public, we may refer the matter to the ASA for consideration. "
UPDATE: A previous version of this article stated that a Nivea ad could still be found on YouTube. It has since been made private.
*More information from Nivea:
"On 30 September, Beiersdorf received confirmation from ACA (Association for Communication and Advertising) who are the official representative body of South Africa's communications profession, that in their opinion by making a very minor amendment to the disclaimer i.e. making it clearer that the claim was based on consumer perception, NIVEA Body may continue to claim “longer lasting care”. The letter from ACA, 30 September states, “In my opinion the amendment as above will comply with and address the concerns of the ASA Directorate ruling of 19 September 2016 in NIVEA Rich Moisturising Lotion/Unilever/2016-4257.”