Dixie Beats Solo in Vicious Paper Plate Ad Smackdown

Last Updated Jul 15, 2009 3:03 PM EDT

Dixie, the company that makes disposable cups and plates, has successfully snookered rival paper cup maker Solo into retracting an advertising campaign that claimed its products were made with bamboo and were therefore more green than products made with petroleum, the National Advertising Division reports.

The move is interesting for two reasons. First, it shows that NAD has a seasonal bias in its rulings (when better than summer to rule on a paper plate campaign?). Second, Solo produced evidence that its plates were made with bamboo but withdrew its ads anyway until it could change its manufacturing so that "the bamboo fibers are more readily identifiable through microscopic analysis."

Which raises a question: Was there really so little bamboo in Solo's products that even a microscope can't find it? Dixie claimed that was the case. It commissioned a lab report, which found:

... the advertiser's plates were made entirely of bleached and unbleached hardwoods and softwoods with no discernible bamboo found in any of the samples tested.
Solo submitted a lab report which claimed the opposite:
... the advertiser submitted laboratory testing that concluded that all the samples tested did contain bamboo.
Plus, Solo produced a bunch of receipts showing it buys lots of bamboo:
The advertiser further obtained purchase orders, delivery documents and warehouse receipts demonstrating that significant amounts of bamboo were purchased in order to manufacture the Bare Plates.

The advertiser asserted that the raw material purchase/delivery/certification documentation, along with the laboratory analysis, provided substantial evidence that its Bare Plates contain at least 50% bamboo

But for some mysterious reason, Solo yanked its campaign anyway:
However, the advertiser noted, in the spirit of self-regulation and out of an abundance of caution, it would voluntarily change its advertising to focus on the renewable-resource aspect of the plates, a claim that is not challenged.
Whatever.

Solo's agency is Schafer Condon Carter/Chicago. Dixie's agency is Howard, Merrell & Partners.