Panel Sides With Pennzoil on Ad Claims


Ashland has discontinued certain engine guarantee advertising claims for Valvoline motor oil, after Pennzoil-Quaker State appealed to the National Advertising Review Board of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

But the panel concluded that very few consumer claims would be covered under either Valvolines or Pennzoil-Quaker States engine guarantees.

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A self regulatory forum for the advertising industry, NARB recommended Ashland discontinue two advertising claims for Valvoline motor oil, including claims that Ashland offers the industrys first and/or only engine guarantee and that only Valvoline guarantees engines for up to 300,000 miles.

The panel, which announced its findings July 28, supported the National Advertising Divisions recommendation that Ashland modify the headline of its advertisements, saying it should disclose the guarantees limitations and avoid an implication that the entire engine is covered by the guarantee.

On the appeal decision, we respect the point of view given by the NARB, Ashland spokesman Ken Gordon told Lube Report. We have incorporated its recommendations in the advertising, and advertising about the engine guarantee. Gordon noted that the company discontinued use of the first and only claims in its latest Valvoline advertising, which began in spring 2010.

We are very pleased with the outcome of our appeal to the National Advertising Review Board, Luis Guimaraes, general manager of marketing for Shell Lubricants Americas, told Lube Report. We never wavered in our belief that the 300,000 mile lubrication limited warranty programs for Pennzoil and Quaker State, while not identical, were similar to the Valvoline program in all substantive respects, which negated Valvolines claims.

Pennzoil-Quaker State had challenged claims in Ashland advertising for its Valvoline engine guarantee. The claims were made in media releases along with print, television, radio and point of sale advertising. They included several variations on the idea that Valvoline would introduce and offer the industrys only engine guarantee.

The NAD initially found that Ashland provided a reasonable basis to support its claims that Valvolines guarantee was the industrys first and only engine guarantee. Pennzoil-Quaker State appealed those findings.

Following the appeal, the panel agreed with Pennzoil-Quaker State, saying the first and only engine guarantee claim required a showing that Ashlands program has substantive, consumer-relevant differences that distinguish it from competitor programs. Based on the record in this proceeding, the panel determined that Ashland did not meet this burden, the appeal panel stated. While the panel acknowledges there are differences between the Valvoline engine guarantee and the Pennzoil-Quaker State product warranty, it did not find those differences to be significant or relevant to consumers.

Both the Valvoline engine guarantee and the Pennzoil-Quaker State product warranty require findings related to the cause of an oil-wetted parts failure, the appeal panel pointed out. The Valvoline engine guarantee administrators may deny a claim when they determine the failure of an oil-wetted part was caused by other vehicle systems or other external issues. The Pennzoil-Quaker State product warrant administrators may deny a claim when they determine failure of an oil-wetted part was not caused by improper lubrication.

The primary difference between the two programs is that the Pennzoil-Quaker State program requires a positive showing (that the failure of the oil-wetted part was due to improper lubrication) while the Valvoline engine guarantee program requires a negative showing (that the failure of the oil-wetted part was not due to other engine systems or causes), the NARB panel explained. Based on the record in this proceeding, the panel does not find this to be a significant or consumer relevant difference. The panel also finds that any differences between the two programs are not appropriately conveyed by Ashlands claim that it is the only motor oil manufacturer offering an engine guarantee.

According to NARB, Ashland argued that its engine guarantee proves significantly more protection because it is very rare for failure of an oil-wetted part to be caused by a motor oil not providing proper lubrication.

However, the record does not support this argument, the panel asserted in its report. If anything, the record indicates that very few claims will be covered under either the Valvoline engine guarantee or the Pennzoil-Quaker State product warranty.

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