A Minneapolis advertising agency agreed to pay $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission and Maine’s attorney general office to settle a lawsuit in which it was accused of producing deceptive radio ads for weight-loss products.
Marketing Architects Inc. reportedly made radio ads with false or unsubstantiated weight-loss claims for its client, Maine-based Direct Alternatives. The $2 million settlement is among the largest ever obtained by the FTC against an advertising agency.
Marketing Architects lists several well-known companies, such as Best Buy, H&R Block and Rosetta Stone, as clients on its website.
“As an advertising agency, Marketing Architects is proud of its commitment to uphold high ethical standards,” the company said in a statement. “We disagreed with the legal allegations in the complaint but agreed to settle as we felt it was the best path forward.”
The ad firm created a range of advertisements for Direct Alternatives’ products, including Puranol, Pur-Hoodia Plus, PH Plus, Acai Fresh, AF Plus, and Final Trim, that ran between January 2006 and February 2015 in the U.S. and Canada.
According to the complaint, some ads made false or unsubstantiated weight-loss claims for AF Plus and Final Trim even though the company had been informed by Direct Alternatives’ attorneys that advertisers needed to have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to substantiate weight-loss claims.
One of the radio ads said, “Do you want to lose 10 pounds? How about 30 or even 50 pounds?” A purported company spokesperson then said, “When we created this once-daily weight loss capsule, we had no idea it would work this well” and described AF Plus as a “proven breakthrough in weight loss.”
In 2016, the FTC and Maine settled allegations against Direct Alternatives that the company made unsubstantiated weight-loss claims and deceptively marketed “risk-free” offers for AF Plus and Final Trim that were actually continuity programs.
According to the complaint, Marketing Architects has a history of creating similar claims for other weight-loss marketers, such as Sensa Products LLC, which agreed to refund $26.5 million to defrauded consumers after FTC filed a complaint in 2014.