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Attention Supplement Marketers: Is This Copywriting “Technique” Setting You up for a Hefty FTC Fine?

When a Glendale, Calif., company tried to use this popular technique as part of their defense against the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)…

…A federal judge in California denied its use and slammed them with a $2.2 million dollar judgment.

The court had accused the Wellness Support Network, Inc. (WNS), with marketing bogus products that claimed to treat and prevent diabetes, the agency’s press release reported.

WNS posted impressive but phony sales claims on their website, Amazon.com, and eBay, and supported them with hyped-up consumer testimonials, the FTC charged. That’s false advertising, and it’s deceptive, said the agency.

But what’s critical to you is why one of WSN’s responses—a practice cherished by supplement writers and marketers—got shot down…

Frankly, that’s what you’re doing if you’re not sure if your copy complies with FTC…and FDA…regulations.

Frankly, that’s what you’re doing if you’re not sure if your copy complies with FTC…and FDA…regulations.

How to know if your promos use this well-known tactic

This technique involves providing proof that the ingredients in your formula have certain health-boosting benefits.

You then tell prospects that since your product has these ingredients with their potent benefits, that proves your supplement works as described.

This tactic is often used as part of an implied endorsement, which works like this:

You get some big-name guru or other trusted source to endorse one or more ingredients found in your product. This, you claim, proves your product is fantastic and better than the competition. Therefore, prospective customers should buy your formula.

So when the owners of WSN used this line after they were asked to show their proof during the Feb. 2014 trial, they probably thought they were safe.

Instead, they got nailed…

Why “Everybody else is doing it” didn’t cut it

The defendants claimed research showed the benefits of the individual ingredients in their products.

For instance, their website specified, “A recent independent clinical trial was done on one of these herbal ingredients from this amazing product. This study was done on type 2 diabetics (mildly insulin dependent) and reported an average drop of blood glucose levels of 31.9% and average weight loss of 4.8 pounds in just 30 days!”

Not so fast, said the court.

To help wrap up the FTC’s case, Dr. W. Timothy Garvey, an expert in the science and treatment of insulin resistance and diabetes, concluded, “None of the WSN claims… are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”

Besides rejecting the notion that the individual ingredients spoke for the products as a whole, he said the studies cited by the company were flawed in other areas.

  • For example, Garvey found that many of them were conducted in vitro or on animals and therefore didn’t substantiate that the tested ingredients work in humans.
  • Next, Garvey noted many shortcomings in the single-ingredient studies that made them inapplicable to WSN’s products. For instance, insufficient amounts for comparison, lack of placebo or other controls, and testing of much larger doses than are found in WSN’s products.
  • Then, Garvey found that even some well-designed studies showing positive results for individual ingredients were not conclusive because similar studies produced inconclusive or negative results.

The judgment–which also ordered extensive future recordkeeping and compliance monitoring–was a result of several Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning letters and an FTC investigation.

In 2005 and 2006, FDA letters warned WSN that it considered their Diabetic Pack to be a drug, making their advertising non-compliant with FDA regulations.

The FTC got involved in 2007.  They ordered WSN to produce documents and answer questions about whether they were making misleading statements about the safety and effectiveness of its products.

Here’s why this case may affect YOU

The FTC is waging an ongoing war against marketers who use bogus claims that unproven remedies can thwart and treat deadly diseases such as diabetes and cancer.

That’s not you, you say?

The regulations governing supplement advertising are numerous and often complex. The best way to say it is: There are few black and white areas; but football fields of gray ones.

And remember that old saying about ignorance being no excuse?

It absolutely applies here.

Many well-meaning supplement makers have got on the FTC’s radar because their advertising accidentally caught the commission’s attention.

But unlike some federal agencies who may just send you letters and so on, if you hear from the FTC, it means trouble—loss of time, money, and peace of mind-NOW.

In the case above, the technique used by WSN wasn’t new. Nor was the FTC’s response based on some new regulation.

So if you’re a supplement marketer what’re your options?

They’re few.

You could take a gamble…hire a pricey lawyer…invest the time to learn all the regulations yourself, or…

…get someone to write your copy who’s knowledgeable about compliance issues.

If you want to play it smart and not kill your budget, the last option will work best for you. Just fill out the simple form below to get started.

 

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One comment on “Attention Supplement Marketers: Is This Copywriting “Technique” Setting You up for a Hefty FTC Fine?

  1. LINDA PARKER
    May 15, 2014

    That is why I am so blessed to represent a group of products with 30 Peer Reviewed, Double Blind Placebo studies published in major medical journals. We know that our products help protect people from most major chronic diseases. Even with all this backup we all make sure that we never say that our products will cure anything.

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