Wow, the federal regulatory agency, Federal trade Commission (FTC), has taken a firm stand on products that promise “a better way to a better butt”. The FTC has reached a settlement with shoemaker, Reebok, over its claims concerning the popular EasyTone shoes.
I must confess that until reading the article in The Washington Post, I had not heard of EasyTone shoes and the claims Reebok was making about them. Apparently both the claims and the advertising were something that hit home with consumers because Reebok reportedly sold over $500 million of them in 2010.
I wanted to do a little investigating since I had never seen any of the commercials for EasyTone or the shoes that make similar claims made by Skechers. Here is one of the commercials:
I can understand why the FTC would get so worked up about the claims if they are false. I mean assuming they do not do what they claim; we could have sagging all over America. What if you actually had to exercise? I mean its absolutely outrageous.
Okay, I agree that if any manufacturer makes a claim about a product and it is not true (although Reebok and Skecher claim theirs is true), they should have to pay a price for false advertising. In this case, the FTC settled with Reebok for $25 million; probably representing some fraction of their profit margin in a single year. That is significant and important – and, it is exactly what the Federal Trade Commission is in the business to do.
I guess my “tongue in cheek” reaction results from comparing the FTC nailing Reebok for sagging butts, while drug manufacturers play in advertising Shangri-La on a regular basis. Take a look at the Reebok ad again. See all the imagery and visual suggestion? Drug companies do exactly the same thing; except drug companies are selling drugs, not the newest “uplift” device.
Ask yourself, what does attractive, successful, professional women sitting in a very expensive bar, have to do with Yaz birth control medication? Or, what does Humira have to do with planting sun flowers? How does Vioxx really relate to walking down a beach to go fishing as the sun rises radiantly over the ocean?
Drug manufacturers spend billions every year trying to tell us about the latest disease and, oh yeah, sell us their latest cure for the latest disease. In 2005 alone drug companies spent over $58 billion for promotion of pharmaceutical drugs to consumers. Drugs consumers can not just go buy, but must get a prescription from their doctor in order to obtain them.
In 2005, drug companies only spent $32 billion on research. That is nearly 50% of what they spent on advertising and that is both a startling and telling statistic.
What are the priorities for Big Pharma? They need the latest, greatest disease so they can tell you about it, suggest you may have it and convince you that they have the answer for you. And, the pressure is on them, because they have to do all of this before the studies come out that tell us the latest cure is simply making people sicker, killing people or that it simply does not really work. The profit must be made before the truth is known.
Be sure that drug companies are in the profit business. Although I know there are plenty of well-intentioned scientists employed by Big Pharma companies who are interested in helping people, finding the great cure for the worst disease. But, at the end of the day, drug companies make decisions based from profit motives and their marketing departments drive decisions a whole lot more than their research and science departments.
So, I am happy that the FTC takes their job seriously and, if Reebok’s claims were untrue, I am happy that they were forced to pay some penalty.
But when will the Food & Drug Administration take some pages from the FTC’s playbook and start bringing down real regulation on drug company advertising to consumers. When will the FDA put a stop to advertising that dilutes drug complications, expands drug benefits and suggests to consumers that if they do not feel sick, maybe they should think about it a little more
I went back and took a look at many of the drug companies advertisements and I seem to have remembered seeing every one of them. The Reebok ad, though, is one I missed and, I am reasonably certain I would have remembered it.