Advertising ‘truths’

A television commercial running on KAME in Reno for a supposed diet aid called Akavar uses as its pitch the slogan, “We couldn’t say it on TV if it wasn’t true.”

The truth is, while there are legal requirements for accuracy in commercials, they do not prevent the use of untrue information. This is because it takes years for the Federal Trade Commission or other agencies to get deceitful commercials off the air, and in the meantime, they can continue running.

For instance, Kevin Trudeau used what the FTC called false and unsubstantiated claims to sell nutrition supplements on television for many years before it was possible to shut him down. Even then, he got around the FTC order by putting the misleading information in books and selling the books on television, bringing his activities under First Amendment protection.

In the case of Akavar, there have been no official findings against it yet, but there are lawyers trolling for clients for class action lawsuits against the manufacturer. The Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Review Council began an investigation of Akavar’s claims at one point ("Eat all you want and still lose weight,” “Now there’s a cure for fat") but called it off on May 18. Council spokesperson Linda Bean said the inquiry was halted under a procedural rule designed to ensure “that our investigative units don’t duplicate work already underway [by] a federal agency or law enforcement organization.”

If proof is needed that it is possible to put false information on the air, there is another advertisement running on several Reno television stations now that seeks to sell the Iraq war to Nevadans. Funded by allies of George Bush and produced by an organization associated with former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer, the spots say (twice) that it is important to keep troops in Iraq because, “They attacked us.” There is no evidence that Iraq has ever attacked the United States, and the consequences of swallowing this pill are greater than for a mere diet aid.