Photo: Goop Magazine, Issue 2, Courtesy shop.goop.com.
7 MARKETERS, INFLUENCERS THAT GET COAL IN THEIR 2017 HOLIDAY STOCKINGS
As we ring in the New Year, the folks at TINA.org (TINA.org exists to out deceptive marketing and promote honest advertising) like to wring out companies and/or people whose advertising didn’t meet truth in advertising standards. This year’s list of marketers that should get coal — notice they didn’t say clean coal — in their holiday stockings runs the gamut from a women’s lingerie website that essentially stripped consumers of their ability to cancel memberships to a supplement that falsely claims that it’s “clinically shown” to improve memory. Here’s who is on TINA.org’s 2017 list (in alphabetical order):
Facing allegations that it failed to treat its VIP members very importantly, New York-based women’s lingerie website Adore Me agreed to pay more than $1.3 million to settle FTC charges that it deceived shoppers who enrolled in what turned out to be a thorny negative-option offer. The FTC action followed a TINA.org investigation and complaint to the agency and laid bare how the lingerie company put up barriers to canceling VIP memberships and broke promises that store credits could be used “any time.”
Unless you swore off TV in 2017 chances are you’ve seen commercials for DealDash, a penny auction site that spends a prodigious amount on advertising (more than $50 million in 2016). And if you’ve seen the ads, you’re familiar with DealDash’s slogan — “the fair and honest bidding site.” But what you may not know is that advertised bargains on electronics, appliances, and other products don’t include the cost of bids. In fact, a TINA.org investigation found most consumers can expect to lose money bidding on items on DealDash. Moreover, the company’s pay-to-bid scheme constitutes a form of illegal gambling, as TINA.org noted in complaint letters to six state attorneys general and the FTC.
TINA.org had a very Goop-y summer. Let us explain: In June, Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s “lifestyle brand,” hosted its first-ever wellness summit in, where else, LA. TINA.org was there, undercover, and along with some swag took home a number of illegal health claims for products Goop promotes. These would become part of a larger sampling of claims to treat everything from depression to infertility that we packaged and shipped to regulators in California to investigate further.
Either they don’t “get it” or the Kardashian/Jenner sisters are purposely breaking the law for the benefit of the brands that pay them to promote their products on social media and may not want that disclosed. What other reason is there for the world’s foremost social media family to continue to skirt disclosing #ad in paid-for posts? For the second year in a row, TINA.org uncovered a plethora of sponsored posts published by the Kardashian/Jenner sisters that lack proper disclosure in violation of federal endorsement guidelines. And for the second year in a row, we notified the FTC of our findings.
We could barely keep up with the number of class-action complaints filed against California-based LuLaRoe in 2017. In fact, the pyramid scheme allegations and claims of defective apparel came so fast that, in November, we had to make a chart to help make sense of it all. That was seven months after we published a review of LuLaRoe outlining what consumers should know about the MLM, whose distributors are known for flooding social media with pitches to sell its highly sought after “unicorn” leggings. LuLaRoe has dismissed the allegations and in the face of mounting criticism responded with a lawsuit of its own.
The marketers of Prevagen should remember 2017 as the year in which its memory improvement claims were finally given the regulatory scrutiny we at TINA.org think they deserve. Two years after TINA.org called on the FTC to halt Wisconsin-based Quincy Bioscience’s deceptive marketing of Prevagen, the agency, along with the New York State Attorney General, charged the company with making false and unsubstantiated claims that its Prevagen supplement improves memory, provides cognitive benefits, and is “clinically shown” to work.
Target may have dodged a bullet (or, more precisely, a hefty fine) when the FTC opted not to further pursue an inquiry into the retailer’s misleading Made in the USA claims, in part because Target assured the agency that it had cleaned up its marketing. But TINA.org picked up right where the FTC left off and found a range of products specified as “Made in the USA” on Target.com despite their packaging indicating that they’re either wholly or partially made in other countries. At which point we called on the FTC to reopen its investigation.
Read more about TINA.org’s legal efforts to fight false and deceptive advertising here.