BBB National Programs Archive

American Media Says Star Magazine Will No Longer Run Ads in Format Challenged by NAD

New York, NY – Jan. 11, 2017 – American Media, Inc., has advised the National Advertising Division that the company’s Star Magazine will no longer run advertisements in a format that NAD has determined blurs the line between advertising copy and editorial content.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

NAD had opened an inquiry because it was concerned about advertisements in Star Magazine for Slim-Fast products. Star Magazine featured a cover story about weight loss, “Snack Away the Weight,” which linked readers to an internal article about the weight loss experience of three women who used Slim-Fast products in their weight loss, and promoted SlimFast as “the superfast slim-down secret.”

The advertising NAD reviewed appeared in the same format as editorial content in Star Magazine and included objectively provable claims that Slim-Fast products are “clinically backed” and “proven to lose weight and keep it off,” and that it is the “superfast slim-down secret!” 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. Additionally, claims like “clinically backed” and “proven to lose weight and keep it off,” when they appear in an advertisement, must be truthful and accurate.

NAD noted that although the advertising was for Slim-Fast products, Star Magazine was marketing the product it published the advertising at issue. A third-party entity who “persuad[es] the audience of the value or usefulness of a … product” engages in “national advertising” under NAD’s Policies and Procedures and is considered to be an advertiser for those products. NAD has reviewed advertising by third-parties who market a product and held them to the same standard as the advertiser itself and reminded that third-parties are also obligated to insure that advertising claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading.

NAD appreciated American Media, Inc.’s agreement to permanently discontinue the challenged advertising and its use of this advertising format in Star Magazine. In reliance on the advertiser’s representation that these advertisements and advertising format has been permanently discontinued, NAD did not review this matter on its merits. The voluntarily discontinued advertising and advertising format will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended its discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.
American Media, in its advertiser’s statement, said that while it “respectfully disagrees with some of the concerns expressed by NAD, it appreciates NAD’s efforts and agrees to discontinue the challenged practice.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.