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NAD Blasts Excedrin's Ad Claims

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NEW YORK The marketing industry's self-governing body has decided that Extra-Strength Excedrin's claim about headache relief within 15 minutes has no merit and is asking the brand to "modify or discontinue" the assertion.

Today's ruling by the National Advertising Division, a unit of the Better Business Bureau, was prompted by a complaint from Wyeth, a rival of Excedrin's parent company Novartis.

The NAD looked closely at Novartis' study backing up the claim and found that "while some consumers may feel some relief in 15 minutes, most consumers will not experience perceptible relief in that time period."  

The ruling takes issue with a specific Extra-Strength Excedrin ad that was still on the company's Web site this afternoon. The ad shows a woman seated at an outdoor café experiencing a headache. As a digital clock at the bottom of the screen nears 15 minutes, her grimace is replaced by a bright smile, indicating that the headache was gone.

In the decision, the NAD noted that Wyeth had objected to the fact that Novartis had submitted a study backing up the claim in confidence to the NAD and that Novartis' study was flawed. Novartis countered that its study showed a "statistically significant percentage" of respondents reported that their pain intensity was reduced after 15 minutes. Novartis also argued that just because the woman is smiling at the end of the ad, that doesn't mean that she's 100 percent free of pain.

Looking at Novartis' study, the NAD found that the "statistically significant" number of respondents who reported feeling better 15 minutes after taking Extra-Strength Excedrin was "very small."

Though the claim doesn't mention it, Excedrin has run a promotion on the theme as well. Last fall, the company awarded $15,000 to the consumer who came up with the best YouTube commercial for the launch of Excedrin Express Gels based on the claim that ""New Extra Strength Excedrin Express Gels for headache relief that starts in 15 minutes."

Julie Masow, director of communications for Novartis Consumer Health, said the ad in question has been off the air since October and there are no plans to re-air the spot. Masow issued this statement about the NAD's action: "Novartis Consumer Health  appreciates having participated in the NAD process, however, we respectfully disagree with the NAD's decision regarding how consumers interpret the express claim 'Start[s] relieving your headache in just 15 minutes,' and plan to appeal the decision to the National Advertising Review Board."