Soap wars: Protex can’t stop Lifebuoy’s claim to ‘deep clean’, rules advertising regulator | Businessinsider


Protex Deep Clean vs Lifebuoy Deep Clean.

  • The makers of Protex have failed to convince SA’s Advertising Regulatory Board that competitor Lifebuoy should be denied the use of the phrase “deep clean”.
  • The two soaps have a history of doing battle about advertising claims.
  • Protex said it had used the phrase since 2012, and Lifebuoy adopted it to pirate market share.
  • But no soap company gets to own the idea of deep cleaning, the ARB ruled.
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The maker of Protex, Colgate-Palmolive, has failed to convince the Advertising Regulatory Board (ARB) that its competitor Lifebuoy should be banned from using the phrase “deep clean” on its soaps.

The two companies have something of a history before the ARB, with fights about whether Lifebuoy really guards against germs, and whether the flaxseed oil in Protex is a natural ingredient.

Early this year, Lifebuoy owner Unilever launched a “deep clean” variant, an evolution from what was previously marketed as “Activated Charcoal with Mint”.

But Protex has been selling “deep clean” soap since 2012, and was not impressed. Having spent millions advertising that soap, said Colgate-Palmolive, it should have protection for its intellectual property.

“[Protex] submits that it has never used Deep Clean descriptively, and as a result of its long-standing, exclusive and extensive use and promotion, it has built up a considerable reputation and advertising goodwill in the Deep Clean property in connection to hygiene soap,” it told the regulator. “Deep Clean is unique to, and exclusively associated” with Colgate.

It also pointed to what it said was clear evidence the theft of its phrase had worked, with Protex seeing a market share jump from 0.5% to 2% in a matter of months.

But soaps have been described as offering a “deep clean” in South Africa before, Lifebuoy countered – and it is a descriptive phrase nobody can claim.

The ARB agreed.

“For words such as “Deep Clean” to be an advertising property that can claim protection, the advertiser must convince the Directorate that the use of the words is unique to its product, is highly recognisable, and has gone beyond the ordinary descriptive use,” said the ARB.

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