The NAD recently recommended that Nautilus Inc. discontinue the express claims in connection to its TreadClimber fitness machine, including the express claim that “all you have to do is walk” to lose weight which implied that walking on the TreadClimber would lead to dramatic weight loss.

The NAD determined that the express claim, although literally true, conveyed a message that was ultimately false and misleading to consumers because the testimonial statements, coupled with the visual imagery of the endorsers’ significant weight loss, was tied to a more direct message of substantial weight loss results, rather than Nautilus’ intended message regarding the ease of using the machine to burn calories. The NAD also determined that the disclosure, that users achieved results when following a meal plan, actually contradicted the main message of the advertising (i.e., that all you have to do is walk). Further, the NAD found the disclosure to be inaccurate because there was no evidence indicating that the participants of the study that Nautilus submitted as substantiation, actually followed the diet.

The NAD also determined that the implied claim that walking on the TreadClimber would lead to dramatic weight loss was not properly substantiated. The NAD determined that Nautilus’ weight loss claims were health related, and as such had to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Although Nautilus offered several studies to support its claim, the NAD found that (1) the evidence was provided in a format that was not sufficiently detailed to afford NAD the opportunity to determine the merits of the study; (2) the time frame of the study (six weeks) was too short; (3) the study was conducted by fitness/marketing professionals instead of scientifically-trained metabolic experts or clinicians; and (4) the meal plan portion was optional and subjects’ diets were not tracked. The NAD also was not persuaded by Nautilus’ argument that reasonable consumers would understand that not only do they need to exercise with the TreadClimber to lose weight, they also need to expend more calories than they consume.

TIP: When making a claim that may arguably be related to health, advertisers should be sure that the claim is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Keep in mind that disclaimers and disclosures are not likely to be deemed effective if they contradict the advertising claim.