Andersen Corp., the leading maker of wood and vinyl-clad wood windows, has agreed to change an advertising campaign geared to ``shatter a few myths about hollow vinyl windows.''
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus Inc. in New York conducted a five-month review of Andersen's magazine and brochure campaign and found some flaws in its conclusions, Robin Kravitz, senior attorney for NAD, said in an Aug. 21 telephone interview.
Andersen's claims in advertising to both consumers and contractors included:
````No hollow vinyl windows offer the strength, lasting beauty and performance that Andersen Windows do. Why? Hollow vinyl windows contract in cold and expand in heat, causing them to warp and lose their weathertightness.''
````As a product category, hollow vinyl windows have such inconsistency in quality and performance, they can undermine your profitability. Not to mention your reputation.''
````[Hollow vinyl window] fabricators all face the same limitations because they are working with the same vinyl material with the same physical properties.''
Dayton Technologies Inc. of Monroe, Ohio, a leading vinyl window profile extruder, brought the challenge to NAD.
Bob Maynes, marketing manager for Dayton, said the Andersen campaign started about a year ago, right before a major remodeling show in Kansas City.
``I was sitting on the plane on the way to the show reading these ads and saying `This is bullshit.'''
Dayton first crafted a white paper designed to refute Andersen's claims. It also put a lot of time and expense into bringing its case before the NAD, Maynes said.
That investment may have paid off. NAD found Andersen's claims were too broad, and were not supported by the testing it did on a limited number of vinyl windows, Kravitz said.
Andersen's test results also differed greatly from tests Dayton performed according to the standards of the American Architectural Manufacturers Association of Chicago, an industry group that certifies all types of windows, Kravitz said.
``Those windows all passed when Dayton tested them, but they all failed when Andersen tested them,'' she said.
Even assuming Andersen's test results were accurate, there was little correlation between the tests and real-world results, she said.
``If these windows are so terrible, where are all the failures? I don't think American consumers are going to put up with that much,'' she said.
Andersen stated in NAD's report that it stood by its test methods, which it said were based on ASTM protocols.
``We continue to believe in the performance standards of the ASTM testing protocol and to trust our 40-plus years' experience with vinyl as a cladding material vs. a structural component,'' the company responded in NAD's written report.
But Andersen also agreed to abide by the NAD's decision. ``Andersen supports the NAD as a self-regulatory program. Consequently we will not use the questioned advertising or brochures in their present form until further or more specific substantiation can be gathered and reviewed,'' the firm said in the report.
Andersen officials were not available for comment.
NAD was founded in 1971 by advertisers to help self-regulate the industry. While NAD uses existing federal laws and standards in its decisions, its findings are not enforceable. But firms tend to follow NAD rulings because self-regulation is preferable to government enforcement, Kravitz said. NAD proceedings also are completely confidential until the final report is issued.
Dayton could have chosen to sue Andersen in a federal court over the advertising, Kravitz said, adding that avenue is fraught with drawbacks—including higher costs, more stringent rules about who has standing to sue and the lack of confidentiality.
Maynes said Dayton's lawyers advised against a federal suit.
``If we went that route a couple of law firms could have put a bunch of kids through college,'' he said, referring to the cost. ``And our intent wasn't to embarrass Andersen or to win money from them. We just wanted their campaign to stop.''