Lesser Law Group

Ad agency fined for deceptive weight-loss promotions

While diet products are popular in California for people seeking to lose weight, many supplements and other items are backed by little to no meaningful evidence. Now, one advertising agency has settled a joint complaint brought by the Federal Trade Commission and the Maine state government for deceptive advertising. The firm, Marketing Architects, agreed to pay $2 million to the plaintiffs, representing the largest fine imposed on an ad agency. The plaintiffs had accused the company of using false and misleading claims to promote dubious weight-loss regimens.

The complaint noted that the ad agency had previously been warned about presenting advertisements without competent or reliable evidence to back up its health claims. It noted that Marketing Architects had even received information from its own client that further scientific support would be necessary in order to make certain claims. However, the company continued to make unproven health claims. In addition, it also sought to present its advertising materials as if they were legitimate news reports and promoted entirely false customer testimonials written by the agency itself.

The large settlement reflects the fact that Marketing Architects was charged with knowingly producing false or misleading advertising. The company had previously settled with the FTC on similar claims in the past, and it was unable to present any substantiation for its health claims. Therefore, the agency would be held more responsible than one that was misled by its own clients.

Deceptive trade practices are banned by the FTC, and ad agencies have a responsibility to track evidence for health and other substantive claims. In addition, they are required to review the materials they obtain from the client to verify their legality. Companies might want to consult with an attorney about their obligations to prevent unfair trade practices or deceptive advertising.

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