Round-2 of Sebamed-HUL ad war: German firm offers free test kits for soaps

Sebamed’s new campaign asks consumers to call or register on its website for free test kits to check pH value of soaps
German personal care brand Sebamed, fighting Hindustan Unilever (HUL) in court over an ad campaign, has stepped up the war by launching a new campaign that offers free test kits to check the pH value of soaps.

The verdict in the ongoing court battle is likely to be out on Tuesday.

Sebamed has steered clear of comparative advertising following the interim injunction by the Bombay High Court in the matter, Shashi Ranjan, the firm’s India country head, said.

"We respect the court and its order. We have not got into comparative advertising. But brand-building is ongoing and we have launched a new awareness campaign as part of the initiative," he said.

HUL had said last week that Sebamed's advertisements were misleading consumers on soap efficacy.

"HUL’s brands are time-tested and have always delivered on the promise they have made to their consumers," Dev Bajpai, executive director, legal and corporate affairs, HUL, said.


Sebamed's new campaign asks consumers to call or register on its website for free test kits.

“It is important for consumers to understand the pH value of soaps they use,” Ranjan said. "This will help put things in perspective regarding the importance of the right pH value for the skin."

In the first round of war, Sebamed had said in a series of ads — across print, television, digital, and outdoor — that brands such as Lux, Dove, Pears, and Rin were high on pH value. Sebamed had also named Santoor, a popular soap brand from Wipro Consumer Care, in its campaign.

pH is a measure of how acidic a product is. The lower the pH value, the better it is for the skin.


In response, HUL had used Dove cleansing bar to state in print ads that the latter was the No.1 brand recommended by dermatologists and was milder and suitable for the most sensitive skin.

The Sebamed ads had claimed that the Sebamed cleansing bar had a pH value of 5.5, which is considered safe for the skin.

Apart from naming rival brands, Sebamed had spoofed Lux commercials, dressing the models like filmstars and showing them lounging around a bathing area. The campaign ended with the tag line ‘Filmstars kee nahin, science kee suno (Don't listen to filmstars, take note of science)’.

The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) bars advertisers from openly comparing a brand with a competitor's by naming and showing the latter's product or by making a spoof of rival's commercials.

These outcomes were discussed at length when the campaign was being conceptualised and executed, Ranjan said. The company, he said, had made its submissions in court to back its claims.

The first round
  • Sebamed released ads saying brands such as Lux, Dove, Pears, and Rin were high on pH value
  • Also named Santoor, a popular soap brand from Wipro Consumer Care
  • In response, HUL said Dove was the No. 1 brand recommended by dermatologists



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