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Hills chastised for highlighting dispute with Blue Buffalo for self promotion

Article

Advertising regulator arbitrates long-running dispute between two pet food companies.

Hill's Pet Nutrition violated advertising protocols by touting the fact that a competitor was chastised for disparaging other pet food companies, according to the National Advertising Division (NAD), an advertising-industry self-regulation group.

The scuffle is the most recent development in an ongoing dispute between Hill's and Blue Buffalo. It started when Blue Buffalo made an online pet food comparison chart insinuating that its competitors were “fooling” or misleading consumers. NAD recommended that Blue Buffalo modify its advertisements to avoid disparaging competitors-a ruling Blue Buffalo appealed. But NAD's recommendation was upheld by the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) on appeal.

After the rulings by NAD and NARB, Hill's Pet Nutrition's public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller, sent sample blog posts and fact sheets highlighting the Hill's/Blue Buffalo dispute to a number of bloggers.

NAD has now ruled that the Hill's decision to flaunt its dispute with Blue Buffalo in an effort to promote its own products violated procedures that govern the advertising industry's system of self-regulation. Self-regulation is a voluntary process in which participating companies agree not to use decisions made within the system for promotional purposes, according to the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council.

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