ERSP: One Smart for Life weight-loss claim okay, but others need modification

NEW YORK The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program on Monday determined that Smart For Life had provided adequate support for a “lose up to 15 lbs.” claim for the Smart for Life diet cookie, but recommended the marketer modify the general performance claim and consumer testimonials.

The marketer’s advertising came to ERSP’s attention through routine monitoring of electronic direct-response advertising. ERSP examined claims in print, broadcast and online advertising that included:

  • “Eat Cookies. Lose Weight. It’s that simple.”
  • “Lose up to 15 lbs with our 60% organic all-natural cookies”
  • “Smart cookies control your appetite so you can drop up to 15 lbs a month”
  • “If you want to lose up to 15 lbs a month get Smart for Life Cookies”
  • “I lost 105 lbs with Smart for Life” [Lost 105 lbs in 12 months]
  • “I lost 35 lbs in 3 months by eating cookies” [Lost 35 lbs in 3 months]
  • “Before - Ruth had actually heard about the Smart for Life weight management program a year before she signed up. “I thought ‘Yea right, cookies ... how could that be?’” - After she lost 44 lbs. -“I’m so happy! I’m loving my new life!”

In response to ERSP’s inquiry, the company said its diet cookies are a meal-replacement product and clients replace breakfast, lunch and all snacks with six cookies per day and then have a sensible dinner. Product packaging for the Smart for Life diet cookie indicates that one cookie is approximately 105 calories and contains 5 g of protein and 1.5 g of dietary fiber.

The marketer stated that it provides a significant level of support to both the programs and their participants in the form of doctor visits, weigh-ins and, for those people who are unable to travel to the Smart for Life centers, telephone and biweekly conference calls. According to the marketer, the direct response campaign is designed to provide its clients with the opportunity to choose either program.

Following its review, ERSP determined consumers might take away the message that that they could lose weight by doing nothing more than eating the diet cookies, even though it is necessary to eat a low-calorie dinner as well. ERSP recommended the marketer modify its advertising to clearly disclose that a low-calorie dinner also is required.

The self-regulation forum also found that the marketer provided sufficient data to support the core claim that program participants can “Lose up to 15 lbs” eating the Smart for Life diet cookies as a meal replacement for breakfast and lunch and then eating a sensible low-calorie dinner.

However, ERSP did express concerns as to whether the weight-loss results described in consumer testimonials were representative of normal product usage and recommended that the marketer modify consumer testimonials to depict results consistent with those observed in studies conducted by the company.

Smart for Life, in its marketer’s statement, said, “We have previously represented our willingness to voluntarily make changes suggested by ERSP and are pleased to confirm that Smart for Life will in all of its future packaging and advertising make the two changes recommended by ERSP in its final case decision.”

ERSP, the electronic direct-response industry’s self-regulatory forum, is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus with policy oversight by the National Advertising Review Council.

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