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NAD Examines Advertising for Castrol GTX

Broadcast and website advertising claims, as well as claims included in a technical brochure, were challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Pennzoil-Quaker State Co.

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NEW YORK – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that BP America Inc., modify or discontinue certain advertising claims for the company’s Castrol GTX motor oil.

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BP America has indicated it will appeal NAD’s finding to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB).

Broadcast and website advertising claims, as well as claims included in a technical brochure, were challenged before NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Pennzoil-Quaker State Co.

The challenged television commercial depicts a stunt driver about to jump a line-up of buses, when the car he is driving is drenched by a torrent of sludge, causing the car to stop dead. The voiceover states: “Engine sludge can strike anyone. So get Castrol GTX. It’s superior sludge protection, 57% better than the leading 5W-30. Tests prove it.” An on-screen super reads: “In M271 Sludge Test.” The claims were also made in similar web ads.

The advertiser’s evidence included the results of the M271 sludge test, a proprietary test created by automaker Mercedes-Benz for the purpose of testing motor-oil performance in European Mercedes Benz cars, which are driven on European roads. The central question before NAD was whether the advertiser’s M271 test results could support its expressly quantified sludge-protection superiority claims.

NAD noted that the protocol, reference data and reproducibility statistics for the M271 test are unpublished. Further, the tests were run on the engine that is used in the Mercedes E and C Classes, and there is no published correlation to U.S. standards for motor-oil tests and no field correlation to North American cars. Following its review of the evidence, NAD concluded that the M271 test is not an appropriate test on which to base a broad, unqualified “57% better” claim.

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NAD therefore recommended that in the context of the advertiser’s television commercials – television being a medium that is not ideally suited for the type of extensive and detailed explanation that would be required to sufficiently qualify and explain the substantial limitations of the 57% claim – the advertiser should discontinue its “57% better” claims; and  in the context of the advertiser’s website claims and technical bulletin – media that are more suited to nuanced and elaborated claims – the advertiser should either discontinue its “57% better” claims, or modify them to expressly state, in the body copy of the advertisement,  that the superiority claim is limited to the motor oil’s performance in certain European Mercedes-Benz vehicles, as measured by a European automaker’s proprietary testing. NAD noted that such a change would be best accomplished by altering the body of the claim, rather than using a disclaimer.

BP America took issue with NAD’s findings. In its advertiser’s statement, the company said that it “strongly believes that consumers have a right to be informed about products like Castrol GTX, which are engineered to exceed the minimum performance standards met by Pennzoil’s conventional oil.”

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The company noted that it appreciated NAD’s attention to the matter, but has asked NAD to refer this case to an NARB Panel for appellate review.

NAD’s inquiry was conducted under NAD/CARU/NARB Procedures for the Voluntary Self-Regulation of National Advertising. 

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