The spot promoting Nivea Repair & Targeted Care line of cosmetics promising “healthier hair more beautiful than ever before” and “the first such precise regeneration” is unethical and abuses the lack of experience and knowledge by consumers and misleads them.
In relation to the complaint by Unilever Poland (producing Dove shampoos, among others), the Advertising Ethics Commission (KER, Komisja Etyki Reklamy) dealt with a spot aired on TV by its competitor: Nivea Poland. According to the complaintant , advertising promoting a line of hair care products contains false information that Nivea Poland, allegedly, is the first and only company in the history of the cosmetic market producing such unique products containing ingredients providing “the first such precise regeneration”.
According to the complaintant Unilever, these phrases are too categorical. And in the absence of test results to support the claim causing hair to be “healthier and more beautiful than ever,” Nivea was not entitled to use them in promotional material. Unilever alleged a violation of unfair competition in connection with the reference to all manufacturers of hair care products in history.
Defending themselves, Nivea raised during the proceedings that they possess laboratory studies demonstrating the efficacy of the advertised product, and the flattering opinions of female consumers, expressed through web portals, as proof of the high quality of the advertised products. Furthermore – according to the manufacturer – the complaint concerning customers’ confusion is not true, because the information about the innovative formula is contained in the information printed on the packaging.
KER, however, did not take these arguments into account. Tests carried out by the laboratory involved a comparison of the condition of hair before and after using the product. According to the Commission this is not evidence proving the Repair & Care Targeted line of products are the best in the world – as the spot suggests. Reading the cosmetic’s ingredients does not give the average consumer the opportunity to confirm the veracity of claims about the superiority of formulas patented by the Nivea brand over other manufacturers.
As a result, the panel of judges came to the conclusion the spot promising a revolution in hair care misleads consumers and leads to the abuse of trust of consumers by advertisers, and therefore violates the Code of Ethics in Advertising. Therefore, it should be changed.
It is also worth noting it was not the first time the Commission recognized the advertising of a competitor as incompatible with the standards of the Code following a complaint by Unilever Poland. In 2012 the manufacturer of the Dove brand complained about the use of slogans promoting “the best formula in history.” Also back then the Commission considered the slogans advertising Nivea products too categorical and unambiguous and ordered Nivea to change them.
Currently, the spot is no longer aired. Nivea Poland is entitled to appeal the decision.
Of course, we should keep in mind that the decision by the Advertising Ethics Commission, operating under the Advertising Council, are not binding. It is just a branch organization – created as part of the self-regulation by the advertising market in Poland. However, both this and similar judgements show that although exaggeration in advertising is quite natural, every advertiser should restrain themselves from throwing in slogans comparing it with the entire market or describe the position of its products in a given market segment. Even if advertising does not have the characteristics of comparative advertising within the meaning of the provisions on combating unfair competition, going too far in praising your own products may cause problems – either PR related or legal.