Sometimes not even the “pretty fine print” has the answers consumers are looking for.
The U.S. flag features prominently in this Gillette ad despite the fact that many of its products aren't "Made in the USA."
Editor’s Note: The FTC has closed an inquiry into Gillette’s Made in the USA claims, noting in an Oct. 1 letter to the razor maker changes that it has made such as the discontinuation of unqualified U.S.-origin claims in digital and broadcast advertising and on packaging. The letter comes nine months after TINA.org filed a deceptive advertising complaint against Gillette with the FTC. Our original ad alert follows.
The camera pans slowly from left to right as a man wearing safety glasses makes sparks at his work station inside the sprawling factory. In the background, a large American flag hangs on the wall. It is the second of three shots of Old Glory in the 30-second spot for “America’s #1 shave.”
Watching this TV commercial highlighting “the men and women of Gillette” — specifically the 1,200 who work at the company’s World Shaving Headquarters in Boston — it’s easy to come away with the impression that the majority of Gillette’s shaving products meet the legal standard to be marketed as Made in the USA. But a TINA.org review has found that not to be the case.
Ever suspicious of Made in the USA claims both express and implied, TINA.org, after seeing the ad, took a trip to the grocery store to check on origin information on product packaging. Out of 17 Gillette shaving products sampled by TINA.org that listed a country of origin on packaging, only two packs of cartridges for the Fusion5 and the Fusion5 ProGlide razors were labeled “Made in U.S.A.”
The rest of the cartridges, razors, and blades were either wholly or partially made in Brazil, Mexico, Poland or China. This includes at least four of the razors featured in the ad, all of which had handles made abroad. Here are three from that group (See all of our findings here):
The FTC’s Made in the USA standard calls for items marketed with an unqualified Made in the USA claim to be “all or virtually all” made here. Anything less and the product or line of products cannot legally bear the claim, whether the claim is express or implied.
The agency’s standard gives several examples of what might constitute an implied Made in the USA claim, including U.S. symbols like the American flag or geographic references to a U.S.-based headquarters or factory. These “may convey a claim of U.S. origin either by themselves or in conjunction with other phrases or images,” the FTC says.
When reached for comment on TINA.org’s findings, a Gillette spokesperson disagreed with the idea that the commercial makes an implied Made in the USA claim, saying in response to an inquiry:
…what you see in the spot is a tribute to our longstanding heritage of manufacturing in Boston and the more than 1,000 men and women who work here today to make some of our best blades. … billions of blades are leaving our site here every single year, including for example the Fusion5 cartridges (in the ad and in TINA.org’s sampling).
Yet, as the spokesperson seems to admit with the phrase “some of our best blades,” not all of Gillette’s blades are made there. For proof, look no further than TINA.org’s findings: Among the seven Gillette products in TINA.org’s sampling whose packaging indicated that they were entirely made in Brazil was a set of double edge blades. The back of the package carried this quote, attributed to the company’s founder, King C. Gillette:
We’ll stop making razor blades when we can’t keep making them better.
In this instance, at least, making them better meant making them in Brazil.
Find more of our coverage on Made in the USA here.