Late March the US’s National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus recommended that Tennant Company discontinue certain claims promoting the superior performance of the company’s ‘ec-H20’ technology. The claims at issue were challenged before NAD, the US advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, by Nilfisk-Advance, stated an official NAD press release.
Claims at issue included: ec-H20 ‘electrically converts water into a superior cleaning solution’; ‘independent studies show that ec-H20 outperforms [many] conventional chemicals’; ‘ec-H20 technology makes water perform like a powerful detergent’; and ‘Tennant ec-H20 is proven to reduce environmental impact by up to 98%’.
The advertiser at the outset maintained that its Tennant ec-H20 floor scrubbing machine converts plain water on-board through electrolysis into an environmentally safe cleaning agent having special, detergent-like properties to clean the floors of large commercial operations.
Further, the advertiser asserted that it had permanently discontinued some of the claims at issue, prior to the challenge, including ‘Tennant’s ec-H20 is proven to reduce environmental impact by up to 98%’ and ‘ec-H20 technology makes water perform like a powerful detergent’, measures that NAD said it deemed necessary and proper.
The advertiser (Tennant) contended that the remainder of the claims were supported by competent and reliable third-party testing.
NAD noted in its decision that there is no single consensus industry standardised test designed to determine how ‘clean’ a floor surface is or how to test for and measure cleaning performance. Further, NAD noted, there is wide variability among the types of soils that appear on the floors of commercial customer facilities.
In reviewing the advertiser’s testing, NAD acknowledged that the scientific analysis and collective testing evidence provided a foundation for the utility of the ec-H20 technology in commercial scrubbers and for its general efficacy as a cleaner. NAD acknowledged that two of the advertiser’s tests provided a basis for the chemical mechanism of ec-H20 as a cleaner.
NAD determined, however, that the advertising communicated a message of superior cleaning performance which was not supported by the evidence of comparative testing in the record.
NAD found that while one test which compared the indicated ec-H20 technology against five different cleaners demonstrated that the ec-H20 technology produced similar results to the detergent-based method for the removal of heavy stains or common soils, the ec-H20 technology was less effective when the soil load was very heavy or where the soil was difficult to hydrate.
NAD further determined that a second test, which compared the performance of an ec-H20 unit with an older model Tennant chemical scrubber that did not use ec-H20 technology, was not directly comparable.
Finally, NAD noted concerns about the methodology of the advertiser’s field tests. NAD has recognised that field testing in some situations may be more consumer-relevant and a more accurate measure of real world performance than laboratory testing. “Nevertheless,” NAD stated in its decision, “when field testing is used to support comparative performance claims, the test methodology must be demonstrably valid and reliable.”
Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the advertiser’s claims, ‘ec-H20 electrically converts water into a superior cleaning solution’ and ‘ec-H20 outperforms [many] conventional chemicals’ were broad superiority claims of floor cleaning performance that were not adequately supported by the evidence of comparative testing in the record. NAD recommended that these claims be discontinued.
NAD determined that although the advertiser established that ec-H20 technology can help customers reduce costs of chemicals, a message the advertiser is free to communicate, the evidence in the record was insufficient to support the advertiser’s quantified save ‘up to 100%’ claim. NAD recommended that the claim be discontinued.
Tennant, in its advertiser’s statement, said the company “stands behind the advertising claims it has made about ec-H20 technology and does not agree with all of NAD’s recommendations. However, since the advertising claims at issue in this challenge have run their planned course, Tennant Company will consider the NAD’s recommendations in future advertising.”
Following NAD’s determination, Nilfisk-Advance stated, ‘that ongoing efforts to expose Tennant’s misleading advertising claims regarding the performance of its ec-H20 technology have resulted in Tennant’s abandonment of those claims.
‘Upon launch of its ec-H20 technology, Tennant for years widely boasted on its website and in its marketing materials that ‘ec-H20 converts water into a powerful detergent.’ Following the public disclosure of extensive third-party scientific testing that concluded ec-H20 performs no better than plain tap water, Tennant modified its advertising claim to ‘ec-H20 converts water into a superior cleaning solution.’
‘Recently, Tennant has even abandoned that claim, and no longer asserts in its advertising that ec-H20 is a ‘powerful’ or ‘superior’ cleaning solution. Tennant has not produced any reliable and independent scientific evidence that proves that its ec-H20 technology cleans floor surfaces better than plain tap water, or as well as chemical detergents.
‘While industry critique of Tennant’s false claims first publicly surfaced when Nilfisk-Advance announced the results of independent testing in November 2010, the results of additional independent tests were announced in December 2010, and March 2011.
‘Other industry players also questioned the veracity of Tennant’s claims, including industry leaders Diversey and Karcher.’
To read the complete Nilfisk-Advance release, go to: