Star Magazine will change the format of its advertisements as a result of a recent inquiry by the National Advertising Division.
The self-regulatory body expressed concern that ads appearing in the weekly magazine blurred the line between advertising copy and editorial content. For example, one front cover of Star featured what appeared to be an article on weight loss with claims such as, "Joann LOST 40 lbs" and "snack away the weight." The cover directed readers to page 46, where an article titled "Snack Your Way to Slim" told the stories of three women who "met their weight loss goals the easy way—by picking a plan that works and giving in to their cravings," and further stating that SlimFast is the "superfast slim-down secret."
In a second instance, Star ran an article titled "The Ultimate Coffee Break! Kick-start your day and lose weight" that promoted high-protein meal replacement shakes from SlimFast.
Although the cover story and inside articles appeared to be editorial content, they were in fact advertisements for SlimFast.
"Advertising in a format that appears to be editorial has the potential to mislead or confuse consumers because consumers may attach a different weight or significance to editorial content than to pure advertising content," the NAD wrote.
In response to the inquiry, Star's publisher, American Media, advised the NAD that the magazine will no longer run advertisements using the format to advertise the SlimFast product.
To read the NAD's press release about the case, click here.
Why it matters: The NAD's inquiry provides a warning to advertisers about the importance of differentiating between editorial content and advertising. The self-regulatory body cited the Federal Trade Commission's Enforcement Policy Statement on Deceptively Formatted Advertisements to emphasize that "deception occurs when an advertisement misleads reasonable consumers as to its true nature or source, including that a party other than the sponsoring advertiser is the source of an advertising or promotional message, and such misleading representation is material. In this regard, a misleading representation is material if it is likely to affect consumers' choices or conduct regarding the advertised product or the advertisement, such as by leading consumers to give greater credence to advertising claims or to interact with advertising with which they otherwise would not have interacted."