Truth in Advertising

One of the most fraudulent industries (in my opinion) for advertising is with regard to diet and exercise. You can’t do anything or go anywhere without being bombarded by television and radio ads, newspaper and magazine ads and articles, and, of course, the internet where your search habits become marketing tools for companies seeking to get their products and services in front of you.

Recently, a giant in this industry, Reebok, sustained a sizeable hit to their credibility by making unscientific claims regarding their EasyTone walking shoe – touting its amazing ability to firm up users’ butts and legs simply by walking in them. In an ad using a “fitness instructor” video, the cameraman continually zooms in to the instructor’s posterior while she is explaining the benefits of the shoes while wearing very short shorts, implying her results were achieved by wearing the shoes. The advertisement uses specific percentages of improvement in tone, by following the instructor around and zooming in on her butt and thighs.  They also use sex to manipulate and motivate consumers to buy their product. What can be ethical about slimy advertising practices designed to bilk the general public out of their hard-earned money and giving them false hope for a healthier, more attractive body?

I wasn’t the only one to wonder about this:

According to the FTC complaint, Reebok made unsupported claims in advertisements that walking in its EasyTone shoes and running in its RunTone running shoes strengthen and tone key leg and buttock (gluteus maximus) muscles more than regular shoes. The FTC’s complaint also alleges that Reebok falsely claimed that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 percent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles, and 11 percent more strength and tone in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes. (http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2011/09/reebok.shtm)

Walking is a great way to tone muscle and improve one’s health so why would a well-known and once respected company risk their reputation by using unsubstantiated and unscientific data? They crossed the line further by using sex to objectify an attractive woman rather than focusing on what their product could really offer – perhaps through before and after photographs of real customers. Although, given they were misleading us all, they obviously didn’t have anything concrete to support their claims!  It ultimately cost Reebok International Ltd. $25 million in customer refunds but probably cost them much more than that in consumer confidence

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