BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Recommends Shape Magazine Publisher Clearly Designate Content as Advertising When it Promotes ‘Shape’ Products

New York, NY – Jan. 10, 2014 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that American Media Inc., publisher of Shape Magazine, clearly and conspicuously designate content as advertising when it promotes Shape-branded products.

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

As part of its routine monitoring program, NAD reviewed an article in Shape Magazine, which promoted the benefits Shape Water Boosters, a Shape-branded product. The article, “Water Works,” was preceded by the headline “News,” included information about the importance of hydration and recommended SHAPE Water Boosters – flavored supplements that are added to water – as a healthful way to stay hydrated.

In this case, the advertiser argued that because consumers are aware of the connection between the magazine and the Shape-branded product, it had no obligation to disclose that its promotion of Shape-branded products is advertising.

The advertiser directed NAD’s attention to the Federal Trade Commission Guidelines to Endorsements and Testimonials and maintained that the connection between the content and the magazine is obvious to consumers.

NAD’s concern, however, was not the disclosure of a financial connection between the magazine and the products.

Rather, NAD noted in its decision, while readers of the magazine may have been aware that the product was related to the magazine, the same readers could reasonably attach different weight to recommendations made in an editorial context than recommendations made in an advertising context. Put another way, NAD said, consumers may reasonably believe that editorial recommendations in Shape Magazine are independent of the influence of a sponsoring advertiser.

“As the advertiser aptly pointed out, Shape’s well-educated and sophisticated readership ‘have become accustomed to [the informational/endorsement] format and expect and utilize the recommendations in the magazines they purchase to help them make validated lifestyle decisions.’ Readers, however, generally attach different significance to recommendations made in an editorial news article than they would if the same recommendations were made in an advertising format,” NAD stated in its decision.

NAD recommended that the advertiser clearly and conspicuously designate content as advertising when it promotes Shape-branded products.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said that it notes the “concern that the format in which the product was presented might cause some readers to weigh objective product claims differently. With the goal of full cooperation with advertising self-regulation, AMI will modify the format in which it promotes its branded products, including discontinuing the association of the label ‘News’ with copy that discusses its products.”