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Pom Not-So-Wonderful Advertising Deemed Misleading
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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Scrutiny in advertising has been at a new level this past year. With Skechers shelling out $45 million dollars to settle claims about its "running" shoes to Nutella being attacked on its breakfast claims (even though, as one of BMA's writers clearly points out, it made no such claims the consumers implied it), AdLand has to be ever careful with its creative. It seems that if a consumer has a poor experience, or if the FTC wants to feel relevant, the litigation goes after the Ad world.

And health food gets no pass.

Pom Wonderful, the pomegranate juice that has taken grocery stores and refrigerators by storm, was issued a cease-and-desist order from an administrative judge recently. The judge decreed that some of Pom Wonderful's health benefit claims of fighting impotence and reducing the risks of heart disease and prostate cancer were insufficient and therefore misleading to the public. The FTC filed the complaint two years prior, and the judge wrote that the FTC has "proved its case."

Pom Wonderful and its advertising will be subjected to the order for 20 years. The judge also told its affiliated business, Roll Global, to submit advertising and comments about it to the FTC for the next five years.

A little intense, no?

Here's the rub we have with the fangless FTC and the holier-than-thou judge. If eradicating misleading and false advertising is truly your goal, why not go after the fast-food industry? The meat, hot dog, and Big Agriculture folks? 

Oh wait, that would involve lobbyists and high-power lawyers. Then you would have an actual battle on your hands, instead of pushing around the folks at Pom Wonderful, an organization that is actually putting something healthy on the shelves.

Maybe we're wrong, and the FTC has requested an audience with the president of the Hog Dog and Sausage organization (yes, it's real). Maybe it's not as sexy of a news article. But we think it would be news if a judge ordered a 20-year cease-and-desist order to Smithfield, or Purdue, or Hillshire.

There is a debate about whether it is best to be righteous or good. The righteous one obeys and enforces regulations no matter what the situation. The good one enforces and obeys laws and regulations when it benefits the people, causes no harm on the afflicted, or creates a disadvantage.

This order is neither good nor righteous. The FTC lets the financial and insurance industry get away with advertisements that have more small type than substance, yet they are going to place a 20-year order on a pomegranate juice company because, though it's healthy, it lacks the "reliable scientific evidence" to say how healthy it is. 

FTC, you're better than this.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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