A judge ruled in favor of the Federal Trade Commission this week, finding that Pom Wonderful, makers of the pomegranate juice in the curvy bottle, made inflated claims about the healthy properties of its product. Without the evidence to back up assertions that it can reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and other ailments, the company cannot make these sorts of assertions for the next 20 years, the judge said.
Judge D. Michael Chappell also said, however, that there are some health benefits to pomegranates and their juice. Pom has latched on to these particular quotes and is using them in a new ad that continue to argue the company’s point.
“While we are still analyzing the ruling, it is clear that we will be able to continue to promote the health benefits of our safe, food products without having our advertisements, marketing or public relations efforts preapproved by the FDA and without having to rely on double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled studies, the standard required for pharmaceuticals,” said Pom’s chief legal officer Craig Cooper in a statement.
So, Pom has taken the judge’s positive comments and put them on a website, pomtruth.com, and in an ad, leaving out the part where the judge agreed that that ad’s claims were misleading. Guess the company didn’t learn that lesson.
The homepage of the pomtruth site pulls quotes like “Pomegranate juice is a natural fruit product with health promoting characteristics. The safety of pomegranate juice is not in doubt.”
But, as the New York Times points out, the company has left off the parts where the judge criticizes Pom, like this sentence here from the ruling: “However, the greater weight of the persuasive expert testimony shows that the evidence relied upon by the respondents [Pom] is not adequate to substantiate claims that POM products treat, prevent or reduce the risk of prostate cancer or that they are clinically proven to do so.”
Pom is obviously fond of splashy and, strategically speaking, daring promotions. Last year, it agreed to be the title sponsor for Morgan Spurlock’s marketing documentary Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.
But this is dishonest. If Pom wants to continue to make the case that its ads are on the up and up, it should. There are expectations of an appeal, and using the judge’s positive remarks to bolster its case is acceptable. But taking the judge’s ruling out of context isn’t. In the end, it’s not something that will strengthen your position with customers, who are the ones who will be making the ultimate judgment. If your words become suspect and slippery, those promos that you were fighting so hard to validate won’t be worth anything.
The new ads (the image above is one of the old ones) will run for an indefinite amount of time.