Entitled Red Flag, the campaign is intended to reduce deceptive get-thin-quick advertising and to promote more positive and reliable advertising messages. In support of the new innitiative the agency has released a guide, Red Flag: Bogus Weight Loss Claims, to educate the media and try to halt the promotion of misleading products.
"We know that no publication or station wants to print or air false claims. This booklet provides specific examples, along with explanations that will allow media advertising personnel to avoid bogus weight-loss claims and stop them before they injure consumers," said Timothy Muris, FTC chairman.
The FTC also reported that it was taking further action against companies using misleading claims in marketing campaigns.
Universal Nutrition MTM Marketing & Consulting recently agreed to pay $1 million in consumer redress to settle allegations by the FTC that they made false and unsubstantiated claims about ThermoSlim, a weight-loss product containing ephedra and other ingredients. The settlement also required product marketing to display a prominent warning that ephedra use can result in serious injury and even death.
"We all have a shared stake in promoting truthful advertising. Profit and prosperity are not at odds with ethical advertising, the people making these fraudulent claims are not legitimate businesses," said Muris.
Fraudulent weight loss ads are on the rise. A report issued by the FTC last September analyzed 300 weight loss ads running in 2001. The study found rampant use of false or misleading claims with almost 40 per cent making an obviously false claim and another 15 per cent making at least one claim that was likely to be false or unsubstantiated.