NAD Blasts Castrol Ad


The National Advertising Division urged BP Lubricants USA to rescind a recent commercial that claims BPs Castrol Edge motor oil is superior to ExxonMobils Mobil 1 motor oil, saying the ad falsely disparages Mobil 1 on the basis of torture testing that lacks consumer relevance.

The video advertisement, viewable here, depicts two Dodge Challengers in a torture test, in which each is loaded with 1,600 pounds and run on a dynamometer at 75 miles per hour on a seven percent incline. After five days, the car using Castrol Edge continues to run perfectly while the Mobil 1-equipped engine begins smoking and shooting sparks. Citing the test as evidence, BP Lubricants claims that Castrol Edge is stronger than Mobil 1.

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The NAD, a unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, reviewed the ad after ExxonMobil challenged the accuracy of BPs torture test and questioned whether it had any relevance to everyday drivers. In response, BP Lubricants argued that the advertising industrys system of self-regulation has never explicitly set rules about whether torture testing must be consumer-relevant.

NAD disagreed, according to its Jan. 22 press release. Previous NAD cases have made clear that all advertising must be consumer-relevant, NAD noted. Torture tests can be used to support product claims, but only if they represent conditions which have real world experience, the agency said, adding that ExxonMobil and BP Lubricants both agree that consumers would never subject a cars engine to the conditions depicted in the test.

In addition, the testing wasnt reliable, NAD continued, citing several weaknesses in the test protocol, such as a small sample size, a failure to randomize the testing order, a failure to prepare a model to determine statistical significance, and more.

BP Lubricants had Southwest Research Institute, an independent and nonprofit organization, conduct torture tests on four types of synthetic oil, including two undisclosed brands along with Castrol Engine and Mobil 1. Using a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria, Southwest successfully tested Mobil 1 in the extreme conditions depicted in the commercial four times between July and September 2011, resulting in a mean time before engine failure of 73,195 hours. Castrol Edge was successfully tested only twice in December 2011, resulting in a mean of 119,765 hours until engine failure.

Causes other than oil may have contributed to engine failure in one-third of the sample size, a BP-retained statistical expert acknowledged. NAD pointed to this factor in its decision, questioning whether the test protocol had adequate variable controls. Judging that the tests were not reliable and that the extreme testing conditions arent relevant to consumers, NAD recommended that BP Lubricants discontinue superiority claims based on evidence from its torture testing.

BP Lubricants will appeal to the National Advertising Review Board, a company spokesperson told Lube Report. [BP Lubricants] believes that advertisers should have the right to advertise true, distinguishing features of their products even if those distinguishing features are present only in extreme conditions. Consumers can weigh for themselves whether these product attributes are desirable or meaningful to them. BP Lubricants will present its case to a panel of advertisement industry peers, which will include national advertisers and members of nonprofit or academic organizations.

ExxonMobil will continue to defend Mobil 1s performance, a company spokesperson told Lube Report. ExxonMobil appreciates the value of the self-regulatory process, and thanks the NAD for its careful consideration of our challenge and its recommendation that Castrols comparative superiority claims be discontinued.