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December 9, 2019

Advertising Masquerades as Program Content on TV Talk Shows – Part 3

Filed under: Business,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:55 am

For the past two years, Consumer World has been investigating TV talk shows that present what looks like a typical informational segment, but in fact the program is quietly making money by airing it. In essence you are watching an infomercial — advertising masquerading as regular program content. (See our first two stories, one about the truth behind “deal” segments on morning TV, and the other about doctors as product experts on television.)

Another prong of our investigation focused on a segment from the CBS daytime show, The Talk. In this March 2018 segment, a dermatologist conducts a beauty care quiz with the co-hosts and the audience.



After several general questions, the dermatologist casually mentions a particular product line, No7, and discusses the benefits of it. The program host then introduces a consumer in the audience who tells of her positive experience with the product. Only in the credits at the end of the program is there a momentary disclosure that No7 sponsored part of the show.

*MOUSE PRINT:

No7 sponsorship

So this segment which appeared to be a regular part of the program was really an infomercial of sorts. Marketers call it “product integration.”

There are several legal issues here. Was the doctor paid by the company to tout its products and was that consumer in the audience a plant?

To answer the first question, we did a little digging. On The Talk‘s website, CBS offered this description of that beauty segment:

*MOUSE PRINT:

"we teamed up"

And on the doctor’s own social media account, we found her thanking the manufacturer for selecting her to be their dermatologist spokesperson for No7:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Doctor thanks No7

As for the audience member who touted her results using the product, we can find no independent information about her. However, what are the odds that sitting right there in the front row was an average consumer who just happened to try the product and liked it? In all likelihood, both the doctor and audience member were paid by No7 for the appearance. And that triggers the FTC’s guidelines governing testimonials and endorsements, which require clear disclosure if those people were paid for their comments. No such disclosure was made on the program.

Equally if not more important is the lack of disclosure to the viewing audience at the time the segment was airing that it was actually sponsored content — in essence an advertisement — rather than a regular program segment. They disclosed the sponsorship only in the credits at the end of the program. Under the FCC’s “payola” rules, if a program’s producers receive payment to feature a product, that fact must be disclosed to viewers during the program.

Also, whenever someone creates content that looks like the other material that surrounds it, but is really advertising, this is called native advertising. To keep viewers of TV shows and readers of news websites properly informed about the commercial nature of these types of offerings, the FTC’s native advertising guidelines require clear, up-front disclosure. And that is often missing or obscured.

After seeing this segment on The Talk, Consumer World contacted the West coast head of broadcast standards at CBS to remind the company of the various disclosure requirements, and ask what the network was going to do to correct the problem. Not long thereafter, the segment was quietly removed from the CBS website. And eventually, we got a reply:

“I have been advised that we have reviewed our practices and procedures and have reiterated to those involved the importance of transparency, and adhering to the applicable guidelines. You may have seen some changes on our product integrations on THE TALK, as well as some of our other programs.”

This segment on The Talk is but one example of the secret commercialization of content on TV talk and information programs. Over the years, we’ve seen other sponsored segments with often poor disclosures on The Doctors, Rachel Ray, Steve Harvey, and other shows. We hope that the FTC will direct some of its enforcement efforts to the television networks that engage in these sneaky practices.

Next week we check out a segment on the Dr. Phil show that just aired a few weeks ago.

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give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

December 2, 2019

Hey Clif Bar, Where’s the White Chocolate?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:42 am

A California consumer sued the maker of Clif Bars for misleading practices alleging that their “White Chocolate Macadamia Nut” Clif Bars had no white chocolate.

Clif Bar

A quick scan of the ingredients label confirms that omission.

*MOUSE PRINT:

INGREDIENTS
Organic Brown Rice Syrup, Organic Rolled Oats, Soy Protein Isolate, Organic Cane Syrup, Organic Roasted Soybeans, Rice Flour, Macadamia Nuts, Organic Cane Sugar, Organic Oat Fiber, Organic Soy Flour, Cocoa Butter‡, Organic High Oleic Sunflower Oil, Natural Flavors, Organic Cocoa Butter‡, Sea Salt, Soy Flour, Barley Malt Extract, Soy Lecithin, Mixed Tocopherols (Antioxidant).

The consumer argued that the FDA has specific regulations of what constitutes white chocolate, and this product didn’t meet that standard.

The company asserted that the term “natural flavor” in tiny print on the front of the package, along with the ingredients statement should have put the reasonable consumer in a position to understand there was no white chocolate in this product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Clif Bar natural flavor

The judge dismissed the lawsuit saying that although the consumer properly alleged there was a misrepresentation, it may not have been reasonable to have relied just on the big print.

Give me a break.

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Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

November 25, 2019

Old Navy Sued Over Fake Sales, Inflated “Regular” Prices

Filed under: Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:45 am

Everybody loves a bargain, but it has to be a bona fide price reduction from a real regular price. Using inflated regular prices that are rarely if ever charged to make the current sale price look like a deal is not only misleading, but illegal.

And so, one woman from California and one from New Jersey recently filed a class action lawsuit against Old Navy for this exact practice.

In one example in the case, the West Coast shopper bought a pair of jeans like this when they were advertised at $15 — 50-percent off the regular price.

Old Navy skinny jeans

*MOUSE PRINT:

Her lawyers conducted extensive research on Old Navy’s pricing practices, and discovered that the jeans she bought were offered at the full “regular” price of $29.99 for only 12 days over a 486-day period prior to her purchase. So the deal she thought she getting was really no deal at all.

The lawsuit seeks disgorgement of their ill-gotten profits, and an injunction against further misleading sales and discounts. Cases like this have gone both ways in California. Sometimes consumers win, and sometimes stores do. We’ll keep you posted.

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Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

November 18, 2019

American Express to Drop Benefits From Some Cards

Filed under: Finance — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

American Express just announced that it is dropping a number of pro-consumer benefits from a number of its free credit cards.

Tucked on page five of MrConsumer’s October billing statement for his American Express EveryDay card was the bad news.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Amex benefits cut
List edited for easier viewing

So no more double the manufacturer’s warranty, return protection, etc. They are retaining but shortening “purchase protection” for items that are lost or stolen. And collision damage waiver on car rentals will still be offered. (See more details here.)

AMEX’s announcement continues a disturbing industry trend of reducing traditional card benefits that have provided cardholders who utilized them with very valuable perks. See our previous story about Citi dropping benefits on its cards a couple of months ago.

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Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

November 11, 2019

Celebrities Fight Back Against Fake Product Endorsements

Filed under: Internet — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:39 am

For the past 10 years, we have warned readers about fake news sites with stories that tout pills and face creams supposedly endorsed by big celebrities or reporters. In reality, those celebrities never actually used or promoted those products. Now the stars are fighting back against the scammers (See New York Times story.) Also, see our 2019 story, 2016 story and one from 2009.

Last week, Ellen DeGeneres and Sandra Bullock filed a lawsuit against 100 unspecified defendants who over the years have set up websites selling beauty aids usually on a free trial offer basis using their likenesses and made-up endorsements without authorization.

Here are excerpts from two such websites with fake stories and testimonials about products they never used:

Ellen and Sandra Bullock

Ellen never said this

All these types of sites use celebrities’ testimonials to convince potential buyers of the legitimacy and effectiveness of the products they are pitching. The offers generally end with a free trial period (just pay $5 for shipping). Inconspicuous fine print disclosures ultimately hoodwink unsuspecting buyers into receiving monthly shipments of the products for $70-$90 a bottle or jar.

We asked Ellen’s lawyer why they filed this suit.

“People are being defrauded in this massive scam using Sandra’s and Ellen’s names and images. Like Whack-A-Mole, for each fake site exposed, another one pops up. The complaint exposes the scam and how it works so people can avoid getting trapped in it, and provides a way to identify those responsible and profiting from it so they can be stopped and held to account.” — Michael Weinsten, Attorney for Ellen DeGeneres.

The lawyers are seeking compensatory damages, disgorgement of profits, punitive damages, and an injunction against the use of their clients’ likeness and name in the future.

We say, go get’m.

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Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


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