— Karen Brennan, Attorney

There was a very interesting article in the New York Times this weekend worth reading – Best Soup Ever?  Suits Over Ads Now Seek Proof.

The article addresses several recent issues raised by companies against competitors over statements or claims being made in advertisements.  Specifically, companies are challenging the truth or implied truth in competitive ads in an attempt to get the ad withdrawn or changed.

Apparently, the number of complaints over advertisements with the National Advertising Division, as well as the number of false advertising lawsuits (under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act) are up significantly.  Some interesting disputes from the article include:

  • AT&T sued Verizon Wireless over an ad chart, claiming it falsely implied that AT&T had no cell phone coverage in the white area (rather than no 3G coverage):

The lawsuit attacks use of the chart in several commercials.  One great example, is Verizon’s Island of Misfit Toys commercial.  In this holiday commercial, out-of-date toys have been banished to an island where Verizon sends one of AT&T’s new phones, due to its allegedly inadequate coverage.  On a related note, the National Advertising Division recently recommended that Sprint discontinue its use of the claim “Most Dependable 3G Network” due to a lack of sufficient support for the claim.

  • Pantene attacked Dove’s claims that its conditioner repairs hair better.  According to the Times, Dove defended its claims with a market study and an expert to defend its use of “wet combing” versus “dry combing” technique.   Based upon a quick review of a few blogs, these two companies are in direct competition over solving the frizzies (for examples, see here and here).

The Times article suggested defending such claims sometimes requires “delving into the minutiae” and raises the question of whether most consumers actually believe and/or rely on statements such as “no other dog food stacks up” or a hair care product that can really “repair hair better.”  Regardless, it is a great article for anyone interesting in marketing.