Industry watchdog says Bayer's K9 Advantix products not so killer

Kids bathing their dogAn advertising industry trade group says promotional claims made by Bayer about its flea, tick and mosquito control products for cats and dogs overstate their effectiveness.

The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, an industry-supported watchdog that reviews advertising claims for truthfulness and accuracy, recommended the Animal Health Division of Bayer Healthcare, LLC, modify or discontinue certain advertising claims made in print and on its web site for the flea, tick and mosquito control products K9 Advantix and Advantage for dogs and cats.

Bayer's claims were challenged by Elanco Animal Health, maker of Comfortis, a competing flea-control product for dogs.

The claims included:
  • Advantage and K9 Advantix "stop biting fleas in three to five minutes."
  • "Use Advantage monthly to kill fleas within minutes."
  • "Ask your veterinarian for Advantage, the one that stops fleas from biting in less than 5 minutes."
  • With Advantage, "[f]leas do not need to bite to die."
  • "Don't give fleas a biting chance."
  • K9 Advantix "stops fleas from biting."
NAD also reviewed the implied claim that fleas will not bite a dog following application of Advantage, and noted Bayer had already agreed to drop claims that Advantage "kills flea larvae within 20 minutes" and "kills over 99% of flea larvae within 20 minutes."

After reviewing the evidence, NAD said Bayer should stop telling consumers that Advantage "stops biting fleas within 3 to 5 minutes." But a modified three-to-five minute claim accompanied by a complete description of the supporting evidence, NAD found, could be used in advertising directed at veterinarians.

The trade group also said Bayer's slogan, "Don't Give Fleas a Biting Chance" constituted " puffery" clearly modeled after the expression "a fighting chance." NAD didn't buy Bayer's argument that the reasonable consumer would interpret this slogan to mean that fleas will not have time to bite a dog treated with Advantage or K9 Advantix.

NAD also found:
  • Contrary to Bayer's claims, a single shampoo and rinse procedure or a weekly bath did not significantly reduce the effectiveness of flea control for up to four weeks. Bayer promised to note there's no need to reapply the product after swimming or a bath.
  • Bayer neglected to inform consumers of the need to bathe pets treated with Advantage or K9 Advantix in a non-detergent shampoo for best results, and recommended it alter its advertising to do so.
  • Bayer does not need to inform consumers via advertising that they must wait for the product to disperse and dry before allowing the pet to get wet.
Although Bayer said it disagreed with certain NAD findings, it promised to modify its web site and revise future print advertising in accordance with its recommendations.
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