Listerine reworks message amid floss flap

MORRIS PLAINS, NJ: Pfizer Consumer Care has changed the messages around its "as effective as floss" campaign following a judge's ruling that the marketing effort misled consumers.

MORRIS PLAINS, NJ: Pfizer Consumer Care has changed the messages around its "as effective as floss" campaign following a judge's ruling that the marketing effort misled consumers.

Pfizer has pulled its advertising for Listerine and dispatched representatives to remove the claim from the mouthwash bottles. The company has also changed the content on its website to reflect the decision.

"The ruling prohibits us from advertising or promoting the campaign," said Tom Sanford, Pfizer Consumer Care global communications director.

He declined to discuss any future campaigns or messages for the product, adding, "We're still considering [an] appeal."

The "as-effective-as-floss" initiative grew out of two peer-reviewed studies that found mouthwash fights plaque and gingivitis as well as floss.

But Sanford noted that the company still stands behind the findings and the campaign.

"We think we communicated the science of both those studies," he said.

Pfizer has been fielding calls to its 800-line and from the media, but has not done any proactive outreach, he added.

"The thing we don't want to get lost in all this is that the judge's ruling didn't question the safety and efficacy of the product," he said.

Sanford noted that the issue came down to whether mouthwash could be compared to floss in promotional material, and not whether Listerine is effective in fighting gum disease.

Ketchum works with the Listerine brand. "They're mostly doing media monitoring for us," Sanford said.

The cost to remove remnants of the campaign from promotional materials is expected to cost about $2 million, according to news reports.

The ruling comes after Johnson & Johnson, which makes the Reach brand of dental floss, sued Pfizer over the claim. Judge Denny Chin of the US District Court in Manhattan issued the ruling.

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