In another round of the great Greek yogurt ad war, General Mills Inc. has mostly prevailed against archrival Chobani.
An advertising industry self-regulatory group Thursday recommended that Chobani discontinue its “Farmland” commercials, the centerpiece of the company’s campaign to promote its “Simply 100” Greek yogurt.
The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus made the recommendation after Golden Valley-based General Mills, maker of Yoplait yogurt, complained about the Chobani campaign.
It’s the second time in just over two months that a tiff between General Mills and Chobani has led to action by the ad group. In June, NAD effectively rendered a split decision, but said General Mills could indeed support its claims for a “taste test” used in a big Greek yogurt ad campaign. Chobani had challenged General Mills in that episode.
Chobani revolutionized the yogurt industry with its Greek product, forcing major yogurt players like General Mills to play catch-up. Yoplait still has only a small share of the Greek yogurt market but has been making some progress, particularly with its low-calorie Yoplait Greek 100.
The “100” refers to the amount of calories in both the Yoplait and Chobani Greek yogurts that were most recently at issue.
Chobani’s “Farmland” ads featured two farm settings, a synthetic farm where “other” 100 calorie yogurts were made from plastic cows, and a real farm with boxes of fresh fruit and live cows. The inference was that Chobani’s product was the real deal.
General Mills claimed that since its offering is the bestselling 100-calorie Greek yogurt on the market, Chobani’s ad campaign led to the idea that Yoplait Greek 100 contains no real fruit and is made with artificial flavors and colors.
Chobani argued that the commercials never made a specific reference to Yoplait Greek 100, and that reasonable consumers would not perceive the ad as referring to General Mills’ product.
Chobani also maintained that its claims were substantiated against some or most competitors, including Yoplait Greek 100.
NAD determined that the Chobani commercial conveyed a broad message that competing Greek yogurts are made with artificial coloring and flavoring, and possibly artificial milk.
NAD said Yoplait Greek 100 is not made from artificial colors, flavors or milk. The ad group has long held that claims disparaging a competitor must be truthful, accurate and narrowly drawn. So, NAD recommended Chobani drop the ad.
However, NAD said Chobani could continue to promote its use of natural sweeteners as compared with the artificial sweeteners used by Yoplait and other brands.
Chobani, in a statement to NAD, said the company was “disappointed” in NAD’s decision but respects it and “will consider it in future campaigns.” The “Farmland” ad has run its course, Chobani said.