Several companies are tapping into people's fear about coronavirus and launching new products such as air sprays, disinfectants and sanitisers. But their effectiveness is debatable.
FMCG major Dabur India has launched an air sanitiser, under its brand Odonil, with the tag line 'Hawa ka doctor'. The advertisement of the product claims the spray kills 99 per cent of the germs in the air. The 20-second video, featuring Raveen Tandon, has also put a disclaimer saying, "Based on laboratory data when tested in standard lab conditions with 1 spray in a 216 cu.ft room size on airborne bacteria E.coli, S.aureus, Salmonella typhi and Salmonella typhimurium".
However, Dr Faheem Younus, Head of Infectious disease at Maryland University, and a reliable voice on COVID-19 has called the ad "Good video. Bad science".
He tweeted: "No proof such sprays protect against COVID. Waste of money".
Good video. Bad science— Faheem Younus, MD (@FaheemYounus) November 14, 2020
No proof such sprays protect against COVID. Waste of money pic.twitter.com/gR2YkPixXk
A Dabur spokesperson told BusinessToday.In that Dr Younus has misinterpreted the advertisement. The spokesperson said, "We have immense respect for frontline warriors like Dr Faheem Younus for their selfless service towards fighting the COVID pandemic. However, his concerns towards the advertisement of Odonil Air Sanitisers are misplaced and he seems to have misconstrued the entire campaign".
He added, "Nowhere do we claim that Odonil Air Sanitisers helps fight COVID or kill the Coronavirus. Our product is tested to FIGHT GERMS (Bacteria) in the air and that is what we have been claiming in the ad too". On the research, the company said the air spray has been tested in standard labs. "This claim is basis tests conducted in independent Third Party laboratory," the Dabur spokesperson said.
Here's the Odonil's advertisement:
In the past, Dr Younus has debunked myths like coronavirus will go away in summers, COVID-19 lives in the throat, and holding your breath for ten seconds can help you get rid of the virus.
In another television commercial, Colgate-Palmolive India has also launched an anti-bacterial toothbrush that claims to guard against germs.
Even Berger Paints has made an ad that shows actress Kareena Kapoor Khan say the paint protects the house from bacteria, viruses and pollutants. Nerolac also claims to have made India's first anti-viral paint.
While some outrightly claim protection against COVID-19, others have used surrogate terms like germs and viruses. Bluestar has released a filter system that boasts of "virus deactivation technology' with an explicit claim of "99 per cent efficacy" against coronavirus.
Although companies claim their products are backed by research, not enough questions are being asked for proof of their claims. Meanwhile, the Advertisement Standards Council of India (ASCI) has said there is nothing wrong in COVID-19 promises as long as brands deliver on them, while stressing on the importance of curbing misleading ads.