NAD Finds Certain Claims for AARP’s Staying Sharp Supported; Recommends Discontinuation or Modification of Brain-Health Benefit Claims
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New York, NY – December 21, 2020 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs determined that AARP provided a reasonable basis for certain advertising claims regarding its Staying Sharp program when describing Staying Sharp as an educational resource and content library intended to help consumers learn about and improve their brain health. However, NAD determined that the advertiser did not provide a reasonable basis for messages that Staying Sharp games and exercises have provable brain-health benefits and recommended discontinuation or modification of such claims.
The claims at issue, which appeared on AARP’s website, on social media, and in video advertising were challenged by Posit Science Corporation.
NAD determined that certain claims about “taking control” of brain health, as they appeared in the context of the advertising at issue, did not convey objective performance benefits about Staying Sharp. Rather, these claims serve as an introduction to Staying Sharp and encourage consumers to play a more active role in their brain health by accessing the curated educational content on this topic:
- “Empowering you to take control of your Brain Health as you age.”
- “Take control of your brain health with staying sharp.”
- “Get to know Staying Sharp and how it empowers you to take control of your brain as you age.”
However, NAD determined that AARP did not provide a reasonable basis for claims that Staying Sharp games and exercises provide a brain-health “benefit” related to cognitive skills, memory, focus, and abstract skills.
Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the claim “HELP TAKE CONTROL of your brain health. AARP Staying Sharp” in the context of claims touting the benefits of Staying Sharp games or exercises and their relationship to cognitive skills, memory, focus, and abstract skills. NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue references to “brain healthy . . . games” and “memory training.”
NAD also recommended that the advertiser discontinue claims that:
- “Exercises have an added benefit: they engage core cognitive skills, including memory and focus. What’s more, exercises are embedded in Staying Sharp challenges, allowing you to practice abstract skills while learning about brain health.”
- “Exercises are also fun but can have an added benefit. They help you practice memory, focus, and other cognitive skills. What’s more, exercises are embedded in Staying Sharp challenges, allowing you to practice abstract skills while learning about brain health.”
In addition, NAD determined that the advertiser has a reasonable basis for certain claims relating to the educational content of Staying Sharp and its general “approach” to curating and presenting brain health information to consumers, including:
- Staying Sharp is a “holistic lifestyle-based approach to brain health.”
- “Here at Staying Sharp, we make it our goal to provide fun, relevant, science-based resources that can help you embrace new ways of cognitive thinking. By learning a foreign language, engaging in regular physical activity, picking up a hobby, and/or even reducing the amount of stressors around you, you are exercising your brain by challenging it to learn and adapt to new things.”
NAD concluded, however, that when these claims tie the games offered on Staying Sharp to its “approach” to brain health, the claims convey an unsupported message that the games themselves contribute to brain health. Therefore, NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its advertising to avoid conveying the message that Staying Sharp’s “brain games” result in any brain-health benefits.
Finally, NAD noted that during the pendency of the case, the advertiser voluntarily discontinued several claims on a permanent basis, including for example, that Staying Sharp provides “science-based” tools and strategies, and that it offers “smart ways to boost brain health.” NAD did not review these claims on the merits.
In its advertiser’s statement, AARP stated that it agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations. AARP further noted that it “takes its obligations under advertising law very seriously” and that it “will incorporate the NAD’s recommendations and guidance into future advertising for Staying Sharp.”
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About the National Advertising Division: The National Advertising Division (NAD), a division of BBB National Programs, provides independent self-regulation and dispute resolution services, guiding the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S. NAD reviews national advertising in all media and its decisions set consistent standards for advertising truth and accuracy, delivering meaningful protection to consumers and leveling the playing field for business.
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