NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Following a challenge by General Mills, Inc., the maker of Yoplait yogurt products, NAD examined advertising claims that appeared in broadcast and Internet advertising. Claims at issue included:
Yoplait Greek 100 does not contain real fruit, natural fruit flavors, or natural colors.
Yoplait Greek 100 is made with fake milk and/or milk with chemical additives.
Yoplait Greek 100 is “fake” yogurt, entirely artificial, and unwholesome, unhealthful, and/or harmful to consumers.
Simply 100 Greek Yogurt is the best-tasting 100-calorie Greek yogurt.
“Farmland” aired in 60-second, 30-second, and 15-second versions and featured two “farm” settings – a synthetic farm where “other 100-calorie yogurts” were made from the contents of test tubes and plastic cows were filled with powered chemicals and a real farm with boxes of fresh fruit and live cows.
Chobani’ s Facebook page featured still photos taken from the commercial and side-by-side photographs comparing the supposed ingredients of “others” versus “ours.”
General Mills explained that its Yoplait Greek 100 is the best-selling 100-calorie Greek yogurt on the market and contended that Chobani’s advertising campaign communicated that Yoplait Greek 100 yogurts contain no real fruit and are made with artificial flavors and colors instead of fruit.
The advertiser argued that reasonable consumers would not perceive its “Farmland” commercial as referring specifically or exclusively to Yoplait Greek 100. Nowhere in Chobani’s “Farmland” commercial was any reference made to Yoplait Greek 100. Instead, the advertising referenced generally “100-calorie yogurts,” “some yogurts,” and “some companies.” Chobani maintained that its claims were substantiated against some or most competitors, including Yoplait Greek 100.
The advertiser argued that the imagery in its “Farmland” commercial is “reverse image puffery.” Chobani argued that General Mills provided no evidence in support of its interpretation of this commercial and contended that no consumer, regardless of his or her level of sophistication, would reasonably believe that every single ingredient in the yogurt (including milk and fruit) was fake. Chobani insisted that this advertisement was deliberately playful and unrealistic.
Following its review, however, NAD determined that the commercial conveyed a broad, comparative message that competing Greek yogurts – whether construed narrowly as 100-calorie Greek yogurts, or more broadly – are made with artificial coloring, artificial fruit flavoring, and possibly artificial milk.
Further, NAD noted, Yoplait Greek 100 is not made with artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial (or even powdered) milk. NAD has long held that claims that expressly or implicitly disparage a competing product must be truthful, accurate, and narrowly drawn. Consequently, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue the commercial.
NAD recommended that Chobani revise its Facebook advertising so that it no longer suggests that most competing 100-calorie products use aspartame. However, NAD noted that the advertiser may promote its use of natural sweeteners as compared with the artificial sweeteners used by Yoplait and other brands.
Finally, NAD agreed with Chobani that its “three way tie for most delicious” advertisement on Facebook was puffery, as consumers would not understand the imagery – three cartons of Chobani yogurt in different flavors – as representing the results of an actual taste test.
Chobani, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company is “disappointed in the NAD’s determination that this ad conveyed a comparative message about the Challenger’s products specifically” and noted that it believes “the playful and dramatic imagery in the ad would not mislead consumers.”
Nonetheless, the company said, the ad has run its scheduled course. Further, Chobani “respects the decisions of the NAD and will consider their recommendation in future campaigns.”