NAD: Novartis's Excedrin Ads Are Misleading; It Mostly Doesn't Work in "15 Minutes or Less"

Last Updated Mar 18, 2009 2:57 PM EDT

Wyeth has forced Novartis into a corner regarding advertising for Novartis's Extra-Strength Excedrin. Novartis had been advertising Excedrin with the line, "Start relieving your headache in just 15 minutes."

Wyeth, not believing that claim, challenged Novartis to prove it in a hearing at the National Division of Advertising, a sort of industry advertising police body. Here's what the NAD said:

NAD determined that the plain language of the advertiser's "start(s) relieving your headache in 15 minutes" claim expressly conveys the straightforward message that the average consumer can reasonably expect to start to feel some relief from headache pain within fifteen minutes of taking Extra Strength Excedrin.

NAD examined evidence that included a study provided by the advertiser on subjects who took either Extra Strength Excedrin or a placebo. NAD determined that the evidence demonstrated that while some consumers may feel some relief in fifteen minutes, most consumers will not experience perceptible relief in that short of a time period.

Ouch! Score one for Wyeth (which makes rival Advil, by the way). NAD asked Novartis to modify its ads, perhaps with the statement, "Some people will experience some relief in as a little as 15 minutes." (I'll bet the agency copywriters at Saatchi & Saatchi loved that idea.)

Novartis isn't backing down:

Novartis respectfully disagrees with the NAD's decision as to how consumers interpret its express claim 'Start relieving your headache in just fifteen minutes.'
The company will appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board. If Novartis gets no joy there, the next stop could be the FTC.