Raising red flags: The change in deceptive advertising of weight loss products after the federal trade commission's 2003 red flag initiative

Rosemary J. Avery, John H. Cawley, Matthew Eisenberg, Jonathan Cantor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This study investigates whether the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flag initiative (2003), which asked the media to voluntarily cease running ads for over-the-counter weight loss products that contained facially false statements, reduced deception in such ads. Strengths of the study include a large sample of ads in both magazines and on television; an extended postguideline period; and examination of a wide variety of statements, including those that are clearly false, those that are potentially deceptive, and warnings. The results indicate that (1) the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flag initiative is associated with a significant reduction in almost all false and potentially misleading statements, (2) the reduction in deception was greater for ads on television than those in magazines, and (3) a significant number of ads in the postguideline period continued to include false and potentially misleading statements. There is suggestive evidence of offsetting behavior; specifically, at the time that false statements were becoming less common, potentially misleading statements became more common. The author conclude by exploring implications for regulatory policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)129-139
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Public Policy and Marketing
Volume32
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Advertising
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Red flag
  • Television magazine
  • Weight loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing

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