America’s Most Misleading Product Claims

We recently told you about the FTC’s crackdown on POM‘s “wonderful” health claims. But POM is by no means the only player in the how-far-can-we-push-this ad game. Now, via 24/7 Wall Street, we bring you a list of America’s most misleading product claims in recent memory (the list is theirs, the comments are ours).

1. Topping the list (surprise, surprise), is POM Wonderful and its promises that consumers could literally “cheat death” by sipping pomegranate juice out of a neat looking bottle. While the juice has been shown to provide some health benefits, the FTC found that POM’s claims were not substantiated by two randomized controlled trials — as required by law before such health claims can be made — and were therefore misleading and deceptive. But don’t feel too duped, America; we weren’t the first to be intrigued by pomegranates. Just ask Persephone.

2.Sketchers Shape Ups. Who didn’t want to believe that simply changing our footwear (rather than our diets or exercise habits) could earn us the shapely posterior of a Victoria’s Secret model? That’s just what Sketchers would have had us believe when they marketed their Shape Ups and Tone Ups, even featuring a chiropractor in a TV ad endorsing the effectiveness of the shoes based on a study. As it turns out, the company paid for the study in question, and the chiropractor was married to a Sketchers marketing executive. Yeah. The FTC was not impressed. Sketchers agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges by the FTC and the attorneys general of 42 states last May.

3.5-Hour-Energy. The ads for this drink tout its ability to provide weary workers “hours of energy now, no crash later.” The thing is, a recent study showed that 24% of participants consuming the drink experienced a “moderately severe crash that left them extremely tired and in need of rest, another drink or some other action” How did the company try to get around that? By pointing out that the fine print on the bottle claims that consumers should not expect a sugar crash, as the product contains no sugar. The questionable energy shots have also made headlines as the FDA investigates 13 deaths directly linked to the drink. We’ll stick with our tea, thanks.

And the list goes on.

At the end of the day, we’d think the potentially disasterous PR risk of making knowingly deceptive or misleading claims about products would dissuade companies from trying to pull the wool over consumers’ eyes, but we’re well aware that this will not be the last list of malevolent marketing ploys. So what do you think, readers? What other ad campaigns should be added to this list?

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