Thursday, 15 April 2010

*Shapely weight-loss tablets - "It's Proven!"

A second miracle weight-loss advert appearing in this week's National Enquirer improbably states that Shapely tablets can help you lose 5lbs "every 5 days".

UPDATE, 27 Apr: ASA report "The ASA can only take action against advertisers based in the UK and against ads which appear in UK based publications. Unfortunately, the UK edition of the National Enquirer is produced and printed in the USA and then shipped to the UK. There is no UK editorial office and in determining whether an ad appearing in a publication falls within remit, we have to consider where the office, which is taking the decision to place the ad, is based. Although the advertisers may be based in the UK, we are only able to look into the content of ads which are published within the UK. In this case, the decision to place the ad was made in the US and we cannot consider the matter further.

(Image credit - actual bottom used in advert)

Sadly, if you were to continue taking the pill indefinitely, the advert doesn't clarify whether or not you would disappear up your own backside.

Nevertheless, this ASA complaint ought to be a handy reference for most of the things it's possible to complain about in weight-loss adverts. (The advert is available here and here.)

"I write to complain about an advert in the UK/Ireland edition of "National Enquirer" (April 19, 2010, p37).

The advert, for "Health Base Direct", promotes "Shapely" weight-loss tablets.

I suspect that the advert may be in breach of fifteen sections of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP) code. I can provide an original copy of the advert by post, if required.

1. Under Section 2.1, I challenge whether the text of the advert is "honest and truthful".

2. Under Section 2.2, I challenge whether the advert has been "prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society".

3. Under Section 6.1, I challenge whether the advert's weight loss claims "exploits the credulity, lack of knowledge or inexperience of consumers".

4. Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the advert's weight loss claims are misleading "by inaccuracy, ambiguity, exaggeration, omission or otherwise".

5. Under Section 7.1, I challenge whether the advert is misleading by failing to reveal the cost of a call to 0871 numbers.

6. Under Section 14.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds signed and dated proof, including a contact address, for the testimonials appearing in the advert:

(i) In the blue box, on the right of the page
(ii) In the text which states "Users later described the consistency of Shapely's performance as 'amazing' and 'unbelievable'. Some participants lost as much as 45-pounds in one month"

7. Under Section 14.3, I challenge whether the two testimonials I mention above are supported, where necessary, with independent evidence of their accuracy.

8. Under Sections 3.1 and 51.1, I challenge whether the advertiser holds documentary evidence to prove any of the following claims, and I challenge whether the claims made for the effectiveness of the product are backed if appropriate by rigorous trials on people:

(i) "A Single SHAPELY Tablet enables you to lose 6lbs in 5 days"
(ii) The statement that claim (i) is "proven"
(iii) Dieters can lose between 6 and 24lbs by taking up to 4 Shapely tablets
(iv) All women can "stay slim...with only 4 Shapely tablets"
(v) A shapely tablet "vanishes significant weight in less than a week"
(vi) Shapely tablets are produced by the leading laboratories in Central Brazil
(vii) Central Brazil is the "hot-bed centre" of "International Obesity Research"
(viii) A Shapely tablet "has produced an average loss of 6 pounds per tablet during any 5-day period"
(ix) The results of claim (viii) have been duplicated in tests around the world
(x) The results of claim (viii) continue to occur every 5 days
(xi) Some Shapely users have "lost as much as 45-pounds in one month"
(xii) "Cardiologists and diabetes specialists are now calling Shapely 'The Discovery Of The Century'"
(xiii) Shapely "will change the way people lose weight forever"
(xiv) Shapely is "100% safe" and "requires no changes in eating habits" and "does [not] necessitate the introduction of new exercise activities"
(xv) "...what you eat has little to do with the effectiveness of Shapely"

9. Under Section 51.2, I challenge whether the advertiser is offering to the public a treatment for obesity without suitably qualified supervision.

10. Under Section 51.3, I challenge whether the advert is likely to appeal to people in whom the advertised weight reduction of 24lbs in less than three weeks "would produce a potentially harmful body weight".

11. Under Section 51.4, I challenge whether the advertiser has shown that weight reduction is achieved by loss of body fat before making claims for Shapely tablets.

12. Under Section 51.5, I challenge whether the advertiser has shown that the advertised diet plan which "requires no changes in eating habits" is "nutritionally well-balanced"

13. Under Section 51.8, I challenge whether the advertiser:

(i) Makes clear how Shapely tablets work
(ii) Gives prominence to the role of diet
(iii) Gives the impression that "dieters cannot fail or can eat as much as they like and still lose weight"

14. Under Section 51.9, I challenge whether the advertiser claims that "people can lose precise amounts of weight within a stated period".

15. Under Section 51.10, I challenge whether the advertiser's claims are "compatible with good medical and nutritional practice".

16. I confirm that I have no connections with the advertiser, the magazine, or with the publishing and weight-loss industries in general. I confirm that I am not involved in legal proceedings with the advertiser or the magazine."