Notice anything different in the paint aisle of the Home Depot you usually visit? Chances are the banners that have boasted about the top-rated performance of the home center's exclusive line of Behr interior paints have come down.
In our March 2008 report on interior paints, finishes from Kilz (low-luster), Benjamin Moore (flat), and Valspar (semigloss) were the top-rated products, ending Behr's multiyear run as our No. 1 paint in all three categories. Behr paints still performed well in our tests and were chosen as Quick Picks.
Shortly after the March issue came out, a Montanan named Mike Wall noticed several banners promoting Behr paints at his local Home Depot. "Rated #1 by a leading independent consumer publication," read one. "Rated #1 four years in a row," said another. Wall had seen our report, so he knew the banners, part of a larger print, TV, radio, and Web advertising campaign, were no longer accurate. (The Behr marketing efforts also included "Rated #1 for coverage. And Rated #1 in high-traffic areas" and "Rated #1 by an independent national study" ads.)
Wall is not a disinterested party in how Home Depot markets its products—he's the owner of Power Townsend, an independent home center that's been in Helena since 1867. But the Behr banners struck him as unfair. "They make claims that really aren't true, and that affects the little guys," says Wall.
Wall filed an official challenge to Home Depot's Behr ads with the National Advertising Division, the investigative arm of the National Advertising Review Council, the industry's watchdog. After reviewing the evidence, the NAD ruled in favor of Wall in mid-July, recommending that Home Depot discontinue that Behr advertising campaign. (Note that Home Depot had stopped its "Rated #1 by a leading independent consumer publication" advertising before Wall's complaint, so the NAD did not examine that particular ad.)
In an advertiser's statement to the NAD, Home Depot said that while it disagrees with certain NAD findings, it "nonetheless supports [NARC's] voluntary self-regulatory process and will modify those claims accordingly."
The Consumer Reports legal department had repeatedly tried to stop Home Depot's Behr "Rated #1" ad campaign because it violated our no-commercial-use policy, which prevents companies from using our ratings to promote their products and services. Over the years, Home Depot has consistently maintained to us that the ads were not based on our findings but rather on those from Marschall Labs, of Clearwater, Florida.
Learn more about the NAD findings by reading this PDF: Behr_NAD_decision.pdf.—Daniel DiClerico