Missing the Mark: The Long-Term Impacts of the Federal Trade Commission’s Red Flag Initiative to Reduce Deceptive Weight Loss Product Advertising

Mara Schein, Rosemary J. Avery, Matthew D. Eisenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study examines the long-term efficacy of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) 2003 Red Flag Initiative, which aimed to curb the prevalence of deceptive claims in over-the-counter weight loss product advertising. The principal component of this effort was the FTC’s promotion of voluntary guidelines which encouraged media outlets to screen advertisements for the seven deceptive (“Red Flag”) claims prior to publication. By analyzing the content of English-language advertisement airings appearing in nationally circulated print magazines and on television programs between 2010 and 2011, this study evaluates the success of the Red Flag Initiative as a long-term regulatory solution to deceptive advertising in this market. This study finds that the FTC’s voluntary initiative failed to halt the dissemination of deceptive claims during the time period analyzed. In response to the FTC’s actions, manufacturers appear to have engaged in offsetting behaviors and employed other creative content to convey similar deceptive information in their advertising, allowing them to avoid scrutiny while continuing to mislead consumers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Keywords

  • consumer protection
  • deceptive advertising
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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