Bayer Agrees to Halt Ads for Aleve

NEW YORK Bayer Healthcare has agreed to stop all advertising for its over-the-counter analgesic Aleve that carries the tagline “Prescription strength relief without a prescription.”

The decision came following a recommendation by the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The NAD had reviewed the ads after a complaint was brought by rival Wyeth Consumer Healthcare.

Bayer spent $55 million on ads for Aleve last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus. Omnicom Group’s BBDO in Chicago is the brand’s lead agency.

“Bayer Healthcare’s evidence was insufficient to provide a reasonable basis for its performance claim,” the NAD said in a statement on Monday. The NAD also said, “Although [Bayer] disagrees with NAD’s conclusion, [Bayer said it would] immediately cease distribution of all advertising and promotional pieces bearing the claim ‘Prescription strength relief without a prescription.'”

Advertising is often reviewed and modified by the NAD. This decision is unusual, however, because it affects an entire brand campaign. (Usually, the NAD asks marketers to change only a small detail of the campaign.) Also, marketers often have already withdrawn an ad by the time the NAD makes its ruling. In this case, the NAD indicated that the ads are still airing and would have to be pulled.

Executives at Bayer and Wyeth both declined immediate comment.