Commission joins with Maine to fine old-hand marketing company

Dragnet

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Office of the Maine Attorney General are rounding up alleged offenders one by one.

In 2014, Sensa Products, maker of weight-loss products, signed on to a whopping $26 million dollar settlement with the FTC, which alleged that the company had failed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence to back up its advertising.

Then, in 2016, the Maine AG teamed up with the FTC to go after two companies, Direct Alternatives and Original Organics, both weight-loss supplement marketers. The companies were accused of violating the FTC Act and Maine consumer protection laws by making deceptive claims about their supplements. The companies “told a blizzard of lies,” according to the surprisingly poetic then-director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Direct Alternatives and Original Organics settled the case as well.

Both cases were part of the FTC’s ongoing program of enforcement against allegedly phony weight-loss products.

Dominoes

The next related lawsuit dropped in early February 2018 ‒ a joint Maine/FTC action targeting Marketing Architects, an advertising agency that worked for Direct Alternatives. According to the FTC, pushing weight-loss supplements was a bit of an obsession for Marketing Architects; the FTC’s complaint cites the company’s work for the above-mentioned Sensa as well as MI6 Holding, distributor of weight-loss product Neu Garcinia Cambogia.

The plaintiffs accused Marketing Architects of crafting allegedly deceptive radio ads for Direct Alternatives’ products, replete with fictitious product endorsers, bogus news features, negative-option enrollments and dramatic weight-loss claims lacking any tie to an actual product study.

The Takeaway

Marketing Architects settled shortly after the complaint was filed, and faces a number of restrictions and directives. The company is no longer allowed to make any of the always-false “gut check” weight-loss claims advised against by the FTC; it must present scientific evidence to support its claims; it must forgo misrepresenting case studies and their results; and, similarly, it must reject the use of false testimonials and bogus “independent” programming.

Marketing Architects is also ordered to pay a $2 million judgment to the FTC and the state of Maine.