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This article was originally published in The Tan Sheet

Executive Summary

DEN-MAT SEEKING NARB REVIEW OF REMBRANDT WHITENING TOOTHPASTE AD CLAIMS: the company has requested that the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) reconsider some of the conclusions reached by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus following an inquiry into magazine advertising for the toothpaste. After considering substantiation data provided by Den-Mat for nine of its ad claims, NAD had concluded that some of the claims were supported but recommended that others be modified. Den-Mat agreed to the modifications to all but two claims, and is asking NARB to review those. The ad came to NAD's attention through its routine monitoring program. The advertising agency of record is Los Angeles-based Eisaman, Johns & Laws. According to an Aug. 11 NAD Case Report, Den-Mat said it "strongly disagrees" with the watch-dog group's conclusions relating to its claims that "in a comparison of 20 brands of toothpaste, Rembrandt was lowest in abrasion" and "helps prevent new stains from forming." The company added that it "will pursue an appeal on these findings to NARB." NAD noted that the abrasion claim referred to an Indiana University study in which 25 brands were actually tested and Rembrandt was not proven lower in abrasion than four of the toothpastes in the study by a statistically significant margin. As a result, NAD concluded, "What Den-Mat should communicate to the consumer is that in a study of 25 brands of toothpaste, Rembrandt was lower in abrasion than 20 other brands." NAD also pointed out that in a second study submitted by Den-Mat, described as an "abrasivity index" prepared by Missouri Analytical Labs, another brand of toothpaste, Vipont Labs' Viadent, was proven to be "unequivocally" less abrasive than Rembrandt. Den-Mat countered, however, that "in the Indiana study, Rembrandt was found to be significantly lower in abrasion than 19 other brands and nonsignificantly lower than the remaining five brands. Rembrandt should not be forced to make a statement that could be interpreted by consumers as meaning that other toothpastes were lower in abrasion." The firm continued: "Even if Den-Mat gave the five toothpastes the benefit of the doubt and treated them as having tied Rembrandt, Den-Mat should be able to claim: 'In a study of 25 brands of toothpastes, Rembrandt was lower in abrasion than [competitors beaten by Rembrandt] and no toothpaste was found to be less abrasive than Rembrandt.'" Den-Mat further maintained that "NAD should not have placed such emphasis" on the Missouri study because, among other things, "the Missouri study did not provide significance tests or standard deviations or raw data that would allow significance tests to be run. It is unknown whether Viadent was significantly lower than Rembrandt in the Missouri study." In addition, the company said, "the combination of one study showing Rembrandt less abrasive than Viadent, and one study showing the opposite, would lead most people to conclude that the case was not proven either way. Rembrandt versus Viadent should be treated as a tie for the purposes of abrasiveness claims." With regard to the inhibition of stain formation, NAD concluded that, "Although NAD recognizes the ability of Rembrandt to reduce the accumulation of stain in the submitted studies, it has not received sufficient data indicating that the dentifrice helps prevent new stains from forming. A distinction must be made between removing stains and repelling stains." NAD had also noted that "while discussing the testing protocol used in the Boston study, the researcher, herself, expressed reservation about the toothpastes ability to prevent new stains from forming, and stated that to do so would require the dentifrice to form a protective coat around the enamel of the teeth." In response, Den-Mat argued that a double-blind clinical study performed at Boston University comparing Rembrandt with both the leading market brand and the leading tartar-control toothpaste over a three-month period "showed that stain formed to a significantly lower degree on newly professionally cleaned teeth among Rembrandt users than among Crest users." The firm added that "this is clear proof that, versus the market leader, Crest, Rembrandt did help prevent new stains from forming." Den-Mat agreed to modify three claims although it maintained that it disagreed with NAD's conclusions. For example, the claim, "Rembrandt Whitening Toothpaste removes stains from coffee, tea, tobacco, red wine and lipstick," will be modified to state: "removes stains which may be caused by coffee, tea, tobacco, red wine and lipstick." The claims that the toothpaste is "recommended by over 40,000 dentists" and "over 50,000 dentists recommend it" will be changed to: "Over 50,000 dentists have purchased Rembrandt to dispense to their patients." Finally, the claim "Rembrandt may cost a little bit more, but aren't your teeth worth the difference?" will be altered to: "Rembrandt may cost more, but aren't your teeth worth it?" NAD concluded that Den-Mat substantiated the following claims: "Rembrandt contains no gritty abrasives"; "clinical tests proved Rembrandt cleaned teeth and removed plaque and tartar better than the leading brand"; and "superior plaque and tartar removal." The claim that "the patented Rembrandt formula containing Citroxain brushes away stains effectively without peroxide, gritty abrasives or acidic pH" was considered substantiated after Den-Mat revised it slightly, at NAD's suggestion, to clarify that it is the Rembrandt formula, and not Citroxain itself, that is patented. With regard to the final claim: "With Rembrandt you can have it all -- cleaner, whiter teeth with lowest abrasion," NAD agreed the "cleaner, whiter teeth" portion of the claim was substantiated but the "with lowest abrasion" portion remains in dispute.

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