• NAD Gives Excedrin A Headache
  • April 16, 2009
  • Law Firm: Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP - Los Angeles Office
  • The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Novartis "modify or discontinue" its claim that Extra-Strength Excedrin provides headache relief within 15 minutes.

    NAD reviewed Novartis’ advertising for Extra-Strength Excedrin in response to a challenge by Wyeth, one of Novartis’ competitors in the pain relief products market. NAD’s review centered on claims made in a television commercial for Extra-Strength Excedrin that featured a woman at an outdoor café grimacing and rubbing her head. As a digital clock at the bottom of the screen fast-forwards to 15 minutes, the woman smiles, while a voiceover states, "What’s the only gel tab with a triple ingredient formula to start relieving your headache in just 15 minutes?"

    In support of its claim, Novartis pointed to a study showing that a "statistically significant percentage" of respondents reported reduced pain intensity after 15 minutes, and argued that reasonable consumers would understand that the woman’s smile in the ad reflects only relief that her pain has decreased.

    NAD rejected Novartis’ arguments, finding that while the percentage of respondents in the study who experienced any relief was statistically significant, it was "very small" and that "the overwhelmingly vast majority of respondents did not experience first perceptible relief—let alone meaningful relief—at fifteen minutes." Because NAD recognized that statistical significance was achieved and that most consumers identify onset of relief as one of the most important characteristics of a pain product, it recommended that Novartis modify its claim to "more closely" reflect the fact that some people may begin to experience pain relief in as little as 15 minutes. NAD also recommended that Novartis stop using the visual shot of the woman pre– and post– the 15 minutes of dosing.

    A statement from Novartis said that while the company "appreciates having participated in the NAD process, Novartis respectfully disagrees with NAD’s decision regarding how consumers interpret the express claim ‘Start[s] relieving your headache in just 15 minutes’" and plans to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board.

    Last fall, Novartis also ran a promotion related to the 15 minutes message, awarding $15,000 to the best consumer-made YouTube commercial promoting the claim: "new Extra-Strength Excedrin Express Gels for headache relief that starts in 15 minutes."