Paper Towel Ad Puts P&G in Court

15 October 2003

Procter & Gamble is at the wrong end of another misleading advertising lawsuit in the US, this time over the retention properties of its Bounty paper towels.

Georgia-Pacific, manufacturer of rival towel Brawny, is angry at P&G's June-breaking campaign supporting the launch of an improved Bounty. Its legal action marks the fourth misleading ad row involving P&G in the past year, following earlier suits from Kimberley-Clark, Playtex Products [WAMN: 03-Jun-03] and a joint venture between Merck & Co and Johnson & Johnson [WAMN: 23-Sep-03].

GP is upset at a section of the 'Quicker Locker Upper' ad – produced by Publicis Worldwide in New York – that shows Bounty mopping up a spill while an unnamed 'next leading brand' lets some liquid drip back out.

The company is not actually disputing the accuracy of the demonstration for the 30ml of water used in the ad. But, it contends, Bounty might not hold all the liquid if the spill were just 1ml bigger, whereas Brawny would not drip if it were 4ml smaller. The difference between what the two towels can hold, therefore, is 5ml – a mere teaspoonful.

"The overall effect," the suit claims, "misleads the public about the absorption–retention properties of Brawny and Bounty."

And just for good measure, GP is also alleging that the 'new bigger quilts' Bounty is advertising involve a 6% reduction in the number of towels per roll.

The group is seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent the commercial and related print treatments being run, an order forcing P&G to create ads correcting the alleged error, plus undisclosed compensation and punitive damages.

P&G, however, insists the ad is not misleading. It claims that a 30ml spill is typical and that it reduced the sheets per roll to bring Bounty in line with Brawny. The consumer goods colossus hopes the dispute can be settled by the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff