Results Not Typical: FTC Agrees, Changes the Rules for Diet Ads

By , SparkPeople Blogger
It's late at night, and you're channel surfing. You land on a flashy infomercial for the latest workout or diet craze. On the screen, real people share stories about how they saw impressive results--losing 50 pounds in 5 months with no exercise, dropping 3 pants sizes in a short time with just 10 minutes of exercise a day, chiseling their bodies without changing their eating habits. At the bottom of the screen are three tiny words: results not typical.

Celebrities and regular Joes alike tout various supplements, diets and workouts on TV, the Web and in magazines. This one product transformed their lives and bodies, we're led to believe.

I've purchased a few workout gadgets over the years after being drawn in by the impressive results of the models in the informercials. Did I see results? Nope, at least not like the people on TV. As we all know, losing weight and getting in shape is not a one-step process. Neither diet nor exercise alone will do it, and no pill, powder, or product could transform my life--only I could.

Since 1980, the last time the Federal Trade Commission updated its rules regarding endorsements and testimonials, products were protected by that ubiquitous phrase: results not typical. But this month that changed, which means celebrity diet endorsers might soon be out of a job.

There's no doubt that the spokespeople in diet and fitness ads look great. But what's doubted is the amount of effort it took for them to get to that level of fitness or good health. Companies focus on the influence of their product, when it is usually a combo of good nutrition, regular exercise, and, in extreme cases, plastic surgery or a team of experts.

Whether it's Valerie Bertinelli on the Jenny Craig ads, Dan Marino and Jillian Barberie on NutriSystem commercials, or any other celebrity or average Jane on a diet pill infomercials, these spokespeople and the companies paying them now have to share more details about their impressive results.

According to the FTC, advertisers now have one of two options:
  1. They can say that a spokesperson lost a large amount of weight (or inches) by working out regularly, eating a balanced diet and using a particular product.
  2. They can say that while the spokesperson lost that significant amount of weight, the average person will lose far less.

Associate director for advertising practices at the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection Mary Engle told the Wall Street Journal: "We identified a real problem where basically advertisers were evading their responsibility. Consumers were still being deceived by these ads even if advertisers inserted the words, "results not typical."

I'm pleased by the ruling. Until the rest of the world learns what we already know, they need to be protected from believing that that fountain of youth or magic pill is out there. This healthy journey isn't easy, but the results are infinitely rewarding!

What do you think about the ruling? Should celebrities and other spokespeople be more honest about their weight loss tricks? Have you ever purchased something you saw on TV? Which diet and fitness products have you tried? Did they work?

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I've never bought any of those junk items, never watched any infomercial about anything, diet or otherwise. But, concerning the so called celebs in those type of ads, the product/company should also have to show those people every six months for the next 10 years, after the celeb loses weight, so we call all see that 9 out of 10 of them gain the weight back, just as do the rest of us average people. I'll never forget Tyne Daly on the "Tonight Show", after losing lots of weight on "Jenny Craig", right after that show, she went out to fast food joints and stuffed herself, and didn't stop for months, she admits it and wrote about it too. The celebs who appear on the "Oscars" and other awards show, they also go out and "pig out" after the even that they starved for is over with. It's a fool's paradise out there folks. Grab some brain cells before you spend your hard earned bucks. Report
My question is, what IS typical? I don't mind the "results not typical" but they should also be required to add "typical results are_____". Report
Want to lose 40 pounds and save $60 a month? Get rid of your TV and cut off your cable bill. Typical results anyone can get--after the TV withdrawal symptoms are done you will wonder why you didn't do it sooner. Report
Well, if I had known that all those years I was trying to cut corners I would of saved THOUSANDS of $$...I have learned from my mistake. Report
oh, i like that. i should've thought of that a bunch of times. very cool. i'm gonna write that one down.

I always hate those abs commercials, where there's some product that'll give you a six-pack and stuff and you can see it so easily, all chiseled and hard. i bet some of that equipment does work for ab strength in some way, but you won't see a person in that commercial with flab covering their impressive six-pack. that'd be a funny commercial actually, them playing "find the six-pack" and the guy saying he has one, but for everybody out there watching, he acknowledges that its hidden under that extra fat, so they've gotta do something else better for themselves, like diet and regular exercise, to whittle it away so you can see that impressive six-pack. Report
The best advice I ever heard was this: "Before you commit to a new piece of equipment (diet, pill, etc.) first commit the time. Spend the time every day that you'll need to spend on your new purchase by doing something similar or even something else entirely. Budget that time in just as if you'd already made the purchase. If you can't consistently do that, you'll never follow through after you spend the money either." Report
I'm must to frugal to every by anything off the TV. I've found these items on craigslist, at yard sales and thrift shops over and over again. I've exercise videos for 50 cents that costs $17.99 or more and other equipment that I got for almost nothing. Right now I'm looking for Pilates equipment that sold on TV for $300 or $400 and I'm sure I'll get it for $40 at a yard sale, which I don't mind paying, as I WILL use it since I am doing the DVD work outs to keep limber at age 60. Report
I'd like to think this is a step in the right direction however it is far to easy for people in marketing to say no you probably won't lose 50lbs but even if you lose 10 isn't it worth it and there are people out there so desperate for even a little hope that they'll buy it. I don't see how this is any different then the marketing of light cigarettes people are every bit as addicted to food as they are nicotine Report
yea!!! i hate those commercials or infomercials they are so misleading I think they should be ashamed of themselves preying on peoples insecurities and weaknesses. I have purchased the colon cleansing products in the past then found out from my doctor that fiber is all I needed women 30 grams per day and men 35. Report
Finally some responsibility for advertisers Report
Finally!!! So many have been screwed over by false belief in these ads and are out money because of being desperate and hoping for a quick fix after feeling as they have failed at everything else. Now how about the quit smoking, balding, and facial aging ads? Report
this is great Report
Awesome! Report
Everyday I watch the UPS truck stop and deliver another box or two to a neighbor. She has a real problem and evidently cannot stop. Those infommercials have her online buying, buying, buying. I believe it is an illness but only her family can intervene and though they are aware of the problem they won't do a thing. It is a horrible feeling to know someone needs help but you can't offer it. Those of us watching have tried, but the authorities say the family has to request the help. I don't know how she is paying for all this stuff. She doesn't even open it and when it overflows the house, she gets another storage unit. Report
I'm an infomercial junkie. Terrible... I've bought the bun and thigh roller (used a week lost an inch) 6 week body make over (never used kids destroyed before I could even look at it) Power 90 (used a month before roomate stole system... Wasn't tracking but I noticed a big change in my thighs.) Turbo Jam... current... in conjunction with SP Lost 10 pounds in a month, and a total of 9 inches. Of course I buy fully well knowing I won't look like their models... I do read the fine print... I buy for the hope that something will motivate me to keep going. Turbo jam has been my fix... Great exercise and after all it's diet and exercise that gets us fit... Report
This is a great concept, but in the real world it's only a Feel Good change. The FTC can't save us from paying stupid tax, whether the currency is in dollars or poundage or both. We still have to be healthy skeptics, knowing that infomercials exaggerate. We've all been suckered by a good line at some point, whether or not that line was part of an infomercial. I'm definitely among the guilty. That's their job. Our job is to know better than to believe everything we see on the tellie. Report
This is definitely a step in the right direction. I'm guilty of a few bad "investments" over the years, although fortunately not to the tune of many dollars. Consistency and hard work is key. Report
It is about time!!! Most people probably don't even see the small disclaimer at the bottom of these infomericials stating results aren't typical. And, within a year or less, these people who advertise these quick fixes have usually gained all the weight back. The product people as well as the person advocating it should all be accountable. Like the old saying, if it sounds too good to be true, then it is. Report
I am glad, but let's see how they loophole out of it. The bottom line....there is only one true way to loose weight healthily and effectively, excerise and eating healthy. Unfortunatly to some point I don't fully blame the companies who devise these products, it's the people that fall for them, and we all have to a certain degree. But if you know what you have to do, why waste time on a dead end. Might as well not try to loose weight until you are truly read for the journey. It's like the phrase, 'If it's too good to be true, it is!" Report
I've never bought anything from an infomercial ... especially any weight loss or exercise gizmo. Actually, I tend not to buy anything unless I'm pretty sure I'll use it and really need it or want it. I guess those nuns back in the old days really drilled the lesson into my head that "one should never believe anything one sees, hears, or reads without cross-checking its validity." Online, I will not buy anything from any site unless it has the appropriate security certificates, AND lists a real (no P.O. Box), verifiable, address and phone number. They also don't get my business if they charge re-stocking fees, excessive shipping and handling costs, etc., which means reading the fine print before I place an order.

And, I'm proud to say I'm every telemarketer's consumer nightmare, because I will go the extra mile to call them out, report them to the FTC or appropriate agency, etc. Report
I agree with those who said that the change in language will be good. I'm afraid they'll find a way around it though. I never bought any of that stuff "as seen on tv", but I understand the dream we all have of finding that magic pill... if only it existed....

I still remember buying slimfast shakes and then reading on the label that you were supposed to have it for breakfast and lunch and then have a "small healthy dinner" and exercise. I felt a bit gypped, thinking that it was a quick fix but now, oho! I have to diet and exercise too?! Then on top of that I didn't like the taste much. And I read the label and realized it wasn't that healthy either, it had a lot of calories and artificial ingredients in it.

There's always small print. Most of those diet "aids" say things like that you need to eat very low calories and/or exercise daily if you want any results at all. Why not just do that and skip the diet aid? (Not that I'm promoting the very low cal diet, I don't personally like those.) Report
I got Mike Thurmond's 6-week body makeover. When I saw what it actually WAS, I completely understood why people lost weight. They were only eating 1000-1200 calories a day! Yeah, I can starve myself and lose that weight too, but I want to keep it off and I want to be healthy. Report
Like most everyone who has developed a weight problem, I've gotten hooked by at least one of those infomercials. Now my aim is to sleep right through them and get up and exercise. Report
And of course, how can anyone answer a telephone wrapped in a blanket without armholes???? Report
passing another law and then no one paying attention to it.....just as in the books here they have a law on only gives the courts more stuff to clog the system for some joker to sue. Report
Those informercials are effective, aren't they! I think everyone's been duped into buying some piece of junk or another in their life. Glad to see this ruling. I think they need to make it a law that TV disclaimers must be in much larger print and stay on the screen more than a split second. When I see that tiny print flash by, it's like "what's the point?" I'm sure companies will find a loophole to this new ruling as well.
I think it's ridiculous that they have to pass yet ANOTHER law...just because people aren't paying attention. I think that yes, they should say--results not typical--etc. but why they should HAVE to go to even more extremes, just because people are too lazy to pay attention is beyond me. Just like having to have pictures of black lungs on cigarette containers--Everybody knows it kills you, they already have the surgeon warnings--we simply need people to get smart and pay attention to what is going on, rather than making more laws just to combat their apathy/laziness.

*sigh* I'll step down off my soapbox now. I just hate that laws keep being added for the same reasons the old ones were. Report
It's a waste of time and money...if you fall for it, you deserve it.
There are no quick fixes that's for sure. Lot's and lot's of work. It's about time advertisers are made accountable...btw i dispise "small print". Report
I used to wonder how people in their right mind could fall for such ads. But then, at my heaviest, I was in such a depression that it dawned on me. Quite a lot of people, when that unhappy, aren't actually (completely) in their right minds. We all get to a point where we get weak and succumb to things we might normally scoff. Report
I have never been fooled by the ads. Results not typical -- of course. That is marketing at its most deceptive. Report
Wow - 25+ years too late for millions of gullible Americans.... Good for the new ruling, I say! I haven't fallen for a single ad yet, but then again, I don't watch TV or read popular magazines too much, so my exposure to them has been drastically reduced. So glad to hear about this, thanks for posting! Report
I agree that it is about time they make them be more honest. Now that they have to be more honest you will see many of these products disappear as the company will go broke because people will hear that they have to put some effert into loseing weight while useing their produst as so many people are just looking for a quick fix that requires no work on thier part, so they will not buy the product. Report
It's about time!! Report
It's about time someone made them more accountable. They make it seem like it's all a miracle this or that when in truth, it isn't and for the majority of people that use their product it will be a tootal flop.

We have purchased a number of things through out the years and not a single one worked in the least bit including the exercise equipment because of our ill health. I'm glad to see the rulings against them. Report
We do not need to be "protected" by the government. We need to be educated, and that shouldn't be done by the government either. If you really thing drinking green tea or some such thing is going to melt fat off of you, then you should have the opportunity to buy that product or any other snake oil out there. Grow up and wise up America! Report
i'm glad they are doing this. it has definitely sucked in too many people, myself included! Report
I, too, have been suckered in and felt that maybe this was that "one" thing I was missing in my quest to keep the weight off once I got it off numerous times. I am glad that there will be more truth in advertising and I think it is long overdue. Report
I turn the channel every time one of those phoney commercials come on. There is no truth in advertising. Marketing & Sales rule in a capitalism country. Any lie can be sold to the highest bidder or most desperate person. So that means it is up to us to learn from the past, learn from what we have studied on Sparkpeople and to KNOW better. There are no miracle pills, diets, foods, exercise gadgets etc. It takes changing habits one step at a time. Knowing our bodies and what they need. is critical to our success. No body can tell us more about our bodies than we can tell ourselves. Having worked at Jenny Craig, I will tell you some people do come in there and lose weight as the plan says they will, but they are the exception. Those who are not emotional eaters, there are people who got off track and needed a little structure, knowledge and routine. They had solid self esteem already and one success lead to another. Know yourself and what you personally need to be successful. Report
This is past due. I fell into the trap of Hydroxycut and I'm glad to say I'd long stopped using them before it was realized how much the pills could destroy the liver. Report
Good, too many people have been given the false hope only to have it dashed and get disgusted and end up worse than before - deeper in the diet cycle.
We need to keep sparking every where we go - so people can do it right! Report
I think that more things should have the same ruling applied; for one The Biggest Loser. Every week people tune in and see people lose 6+ pounds and then get discouraged when they lose 2 pounds.

I guess if people aren't given false hope these ploys wouldn't work. Report
I agree with Saltychocolate "if it sounds to good it probably is". I am tired of getting bombarded with infomercials on the rare times I do watch TV. Report
I've only purchased one fitness item from TV and it was Core Secrets Fitness Ball system. It did work, but I also had to put alot of work into it. It wasn't a magic system where I could just look at the ball and lose inches. Report
I have mixed emotions about that one. While I do believe comanies need to be transparent and truthful about the affects of their product, I think a lot of consumers practice willful blindness and will always look for a quick fix. How many people do you know still drink hot water with lemon or apple vinegar thinking that alone will help them lose weight? Report
Sounds like a good idea. However, we should ALWAYS fall back on the old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true it probably is". Report
Great news! It is about time that the "weightloss" industry be held accountable. I have purchased products and found many don't work even when I followed their instructions which resulted in a waste of money. I am hoping this info will trickle down to local stores like GNC as well. Salespeople shouldn't peddle products that they have no real knowledge about just to make a sale. Celebrities especially need to be more honest because they are using their famous faces and bodies as the selling point for the product. Report
I am delighted in the change in language. Report
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