Pfizer Sues P&G Over Mouthwash Ads

Posted on by Chief Marketer Staff

Pfizer, Inc., the maker of Listerine, has filed suit against Procter & Gamble for alleged false advertising claims that give P&G unfair advantage in the mouthwash category.

Pfizer said that P&G TV spots for its Crest Pro-Health mouthwash falsely claim that four out of five dentists would recommend Crest Pro-Health for specific product-related reasons, according to court documents. The suit was filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“We filed a complaint against P&G because we believe their TV commercial is false and misleading and there’s no valid evidence to support the claims they are making,” Pfizer spokesperson Bryant Haskins said yesterday.

The lawsuit charged that the ads, which have been airing since about December 2005, would cause a substantial number of viewers to believe that Crest Pro-Health may be superior to Listerine. The $1 billion a year market for mouthwash is dominated by Listerine.

Pfizer is seeking to recover damages from P&G and an end to the ads as well as corrective advertising.

Pfizer said that P&G has no substantiation for the claims and the neither statement is true. Court documents said that P&G backed its claims by a survey of 269 dentists who were paid $75 to participate.

A P&G spokesperson said that it had not yet received the filing, but, as is standard practice, would not comment on pending litigation.

The suit claims that three or four variations on the ad have been running on major broadcast and cable networks. The ads depict dentists wearing white coats opening and closing medicine cabinets that contain a used bottle of Crest Pro-Health. The message, Pfizer said, is that dentists use the mouthwash for themselves. A voiceover states that dentists use the mouthwash and that four out of five would recommend it to their patients. The voiceover also compares the benefits of Crest Pro-Health to that of the “leading mouthwash.” The ads also claim that Crest Pro-Health “kills germs without the burns,” a direct challenge to Listerine (Xtra, April 12).

P&G launched Crest Pro-Health one year ago backed by a $100 million marketing spend, its biggest initiative for the year.

Last month, P&G filed suit against Vi-Jon Industries, claiming that its mouthwash packaging and ad claims infringe on its Crest Pro-Health mouthwash, according to news reports.

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