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On Wednesday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Reebok has agreed to pay $25 million in settlement for false advertising claims.   The product in question is the popular EasyTone sneaker line, including RunTone and TrainTone.  According to Reebok ads, these sneakers will help you loose weight, tone your muscles, and improve your balance.  However, the FTC has cited the company for not having sufficient scientific proof to support its claims.

The advertisements for EasyTone were developed by ad agency DDB, and began running in 2009.  According to AdvertisingAge, Reebok spent 80% of its media budget on the advertisements for this line of products, and $10 million this year alone on marketing in the US.  In 2010, Reebok EasyTones were named by Ad Age as one of America’s Hottest Brands in 2010.  So what caused such a detrimental claim to be made against the company?

In several of the advertisements, Reebok claimed that customers would see a 28% increase in rear tone, and an 11% increase in calf and hamstring tone.   In January, these statements caught the attention of NAD (the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureaus).  However, though NAD recommended that Reebok discontinue these claims, the ads continued to run.  NAD then suggested the case be reviewed by the FTC.

Though the company has agreed to settle, Reebok denies that their claims are illegitimate.  They continue to market and sell the EasyTone product line, though they have stopped production of promotional materials printed with the facts in question.  Furthermore, they are banned from making any health or fitness-related statements until they have sufficient backing and scientific evidence.

This case raises many questions about the ethics and responsibility of advertising.  Under the first amendment, commercial speech is only protected if it is not false or misleading.  In this case, the FTC has made it clear that they believe Reebok’s advertisement is entirely deceptive to consumers.  Though Reebok is continuing to support the products in question, patrons of the product will undoubtedly feel cheated or misled in some way.

Further, the current ethical scrutiny of using unrealistic, unhealthy images of women in advertising has certainly heightened the FTC’s aggressiveness in ensuring that healthy and beauty claims are legitimate. The fact that Reebok has targeted youth under the impression of improving body image is likely to receive criticism.    The FTC is always quick to examine the validity of any health related claims, and Reebok’s coupling of fitness claims with idealized body image probably strengthened the FTC’s motives for investigation.   The promise of improving body tone and self-image is always very enticing for women, but it raises significant ethical issues when these promises are not valid.

This case will likely cause setback for the ad industry.  Not only will Reebok and EasyTone likely lose credibility, but so also will the entire institution of advertising.  While “virtuous” is not commonly used as to describe advertising, it is instances like these that cause even more setback.  Making unsupported claims, whether intended or not, should never be acceptable.

Read the original AdAge article here.

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Categories : Persuasion Theory
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Feb
28

Jenny Craig

Posted by: | Comments (4)

Under the new FTC ruleing, testimonials must clearly disclose the resuts which consumers can generally expect to see. This effects advertisements in a tremendous way. No longer can companies boast about exceptional, but rare, results. Now brands are required to clearly tell consumers what they can generally expect to find.

This is clear in Jenny Craig’s latest ad campaign featuring Sara Rue. Consumers have grown wary of constantly hearing ads claiming that their product can make you lose 40 pounds FAST. Now, rather than seeing the extreme cases, we are given more typical cases.

I was caught off gaurd when I first saw Jenny Craig’s ad where Rue exclaimed, “I’ve already lost 5 pounds!” Five pounds? Seriously, big deal. But then I remembered the new FTC ruling and it all clicked. This is the direction all weight loss advertisements are going to head as companies begin to catch on.

However, are these ads even effective? Why waste millions of dollars on a TV campaign ‘bragging’ of 5 pounds of weight loss. Seems like a poor use of ad dollars to me.

To see the advertisment:

http://jennycraig.com/?dfa=1#

And click ‘See Sara’s new commercial’

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Categories : Stories, Television
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