Pfizer to Pull Listerine Ads

NEW YORK Pfizer will spend about $2 million to replace what a judge called misleading advertising that suggests its Listerine mouthwash is as effective as flossing at fighting plaque and gingivitis.

Television, print and medical-journal ads using the claims are also being pulled.

McNeil-PPC, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, sued Pfizer over the campaign, which began in June, saying it posed an unfair threat to its sales of dental floss. Listerine spent about $40 million on measured media last year, per TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. The lead agency is WPP Group’s J. Walter Thompson, New York.

Some 4,000 workers will be deployed nationwide to place stickers over the claim on Listerine bottles and to remove similar advertisements that hang on bottlenecks, a lawyer for Pfizer told a federal judge Monday.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin of New York ruled Friday that the advertising poses a public health risk and could undermine the message of dental professionals. Chin said dentists have been urging patients to floss for decades because the benefits “are real . . . they are not a myth.”

—Brandweek staff report