British razor start-up slams P&G bullies over ad ruling

FFSProcter & Gamble has been accused of bully-boy tactics against British start-up razor subscription service Friction Free Shaving, after a successful complaint by the global giant to the ad watchdog has forced the UK minnow to ditch claims that it offers “friction free shaving”.

P&G, which already owns rival brands Gillette and Venus and plans to buy US women’s shaving subscription service Billie, took umbrage at claims made on Friction Free Shaving’s website, as well as the company’s name.

In its complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, P&G cited the “About Us” webpage, which provided information about ordering, delivery times and how refills were delivered. It claimed that the text: “Experience the revolution … Join over 30,000 women living life friction free, with no commitment” was misleading as friction when shaving could not be reduced to zero.

In its defence, Friction Free Shaving said that it intended for the phrase “friction free” to refer to the ease with which consumers could purchase their products, namely to take the stress and “friction” out of the process of shopping for shaving products.

It explained that this was because consumers could purchase products online anytime and have them delivered directly to them.

Friction Free Shaving admitted that it was not possible for a razor to provide a friction-free shave and believed it was unlikely that a consumer would understand the claim implied that they could achieve a friction-free shave by using its products. Even if they did, consumers would assume the claim to be an obvious exaggeration and would not take it literally, the firm said.

In its ruling, the ASA conceded that the company had probably intended the claim “friction free” to be interpreted as a reference to the ease of use of their service and not as a literal statement about the efficacy of their products.

However, the watchdog considered that, in the context of an ad for shaving products, consumers were likely to understand the claim of Friction Free Shaving – in the firm’s name and on its website – as objective claims that its products would result in a shave which would be completely free from friction and without the negative aspects of shaving, such as irritation to the skin, shaving rash and cuts.

The ASA concluded that, because the ad claimed the advertiser’s products were able to shave completely without friction when that was not the case, the ad was misleading and banned the firm from repeating these claims.

In response to the ruling, Friction Free Trading has temporarily changed its name to “FFS” – also a widely used acronym of “for fuck’s sake”.

A spokeswoman said: “‘Friction free’ is a commonly used phrase by many companies to demonstrate how easy or stress-free something is. As the UK’s first shaving subscription business for women, we have always been proud and open about how we reduce the hassle and ‘friction’ of shaving for women, by delivering products straight to their home. We came up with the name Friction Free Shaving with this in mind.

“As a young British start-up, which is injecting much-needed choice into this tired category – all with a staff of just 20 people – we’re dismayed to be attacked in this way by such a large global company. In light of all this, we have now formally appealed the ruling to the independent reviewer, Sir Hayden Phillips, and we are awaiting his review of the case.

“In the meantime, we will refer to the brand only in its shorter format, FFS. This is how most consumers refer to us already and it also rather neatly expresses our views on the situation.”

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