Sumita Vaid

Nomarks to approach ASCI for action against HLL

The row between Ozone and HLL started last week, when HLL in an ad in the Hindustan Times suggested that Fair & Lovely was superior to Nomarks and Garnier

Ozone Ayurvedics, the owner of Anti-Marks cream Nomarks, plans to approach the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to take action against FMCG giant Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL) for attempting to mislead consumers.

The row between Ozone and HLL started last week, when HLL in an ad in English daily Hindustan Times suggested, in no uncertain terms, that Fair & Lovely Anti-marks cream was greatly superior to Nomarks and Garnier. "The Truth, Not Just Promises”, HLL said in the piece of comparative advertising .

Right under those imposing words was a bar chart statistically deducing that Fair & Lovely Anti-marks cream was indeed the most effective blemish removal cream in the country when compared to Nomarks and Garnier Light.

According to the chart, Fair & Lovely Anti-Marks removed one or more marks in 84 per cent of the users, whereas Nomarks' score was 57 per cent and Garnier 42 per cent. The ad attempted to correct "some misperceptions” attached to anti-blemish creams. HLL said its claim was validated by independent dermatologists and six weeks of data obtained after interviewing 30 women.

Nomarks has not taken this comparison lightly. "The entry of New Nomarks (that offers the dual benefit of a fair skin and a mark-free skin) has threatened HLL into resorting to unethical advertising,” says S C Sehgal, managing director, Ozone Ayurvedics. "Ozone Ayurvedics is approaching the Advertising Standards Council of India to take action against the unethical and grossly misleading advertisements that have appeared.”

On its part, FMCG giant HLL argues that consumers are being mislead with false assurances, and therefore it is incumbent upon the leader to bring some scientifically-backed facts to light. Explains Debasis Ray, corporate communications manager, HLL, "Today the market is flooded with all kinds of fairness products making claims of completely removing all blemishes or guaranteeing that blemishes will not reappear, which are not even scientifically tenable. As a result, very often, scientifically developed products like ours based on patented technology, time-tested since the 1970s, are very often tarnished with the same brush.”

Ray goes on to say, "In the light of this, as a responsible marketer and to generate awareness among consumers about the scientific basis of our products, we believe such advertising is important. HLL is fully confident of the superior formulation of Fair & Lovely Anti-Marks cream, and that consumers are liking it.”

Ozone challenges the performance and constitution of Fair & Lovely. "Nomarks has the highest content of active ingredients (such as wheat germ oil, haldi, chandan, tulsi and aloe) in its composition compared to all competing brands. These active ingredients form 59.5 per cent of the total composition of Nomarks cream. Consumers would be shocked to know that Fair & Lovely comprises only 0.66 per cent of active ingredients as per label claims,” points out Sehgal.

If HLL has clinical studies done by the Hindustan Lever Research Centre (HLRC) and independent dermatologists to back its claim, Ozone Ayurvedic refers to the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), a leading medical journal, which publishes experimental and clinical data. Sehgal says, "JAMA has published the findings that prove Nomarks' efficacy. In fact, Nomarks is the only anti-scar product in India whose efficacy is clinically proven by the Department of Prasuti Tantra, BHU, Varanasi, one of the most popular centres for testing Ayurvedic products in the country.”

Since HLL's results are based on "an in-house test on only 30 women”, Nomarks suggest "it shouldn't be taken too seriously”.

The verbal feud does not end with providing clinical evidence for efficacy. There seems to be some confusion over the leadership of two products as well. Fair & Lovely Anti-Marks cream, claim HLL executives, is the "top selling product” in its category. Nomarks quotes some recent survey to back its claims. "The consumer's preference for Nomarks is reflected in the fact that Nomarks is the youngest FMCG brand to have achieved the dual honour of being voted as amongst India's Most Trusted (ORG Marg-AC Nielson, Brand Equity Survey 2003) and the Most Preferred Brand (FMCG Awards 2003) in the category of Mark Removing Creams,” adds Sehgal.

Ozone Ayurvedics is documenting facts and preparing its case. The management assures that by Monday evening, some concrete action would be taken.

It is over to ASCI now.

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