Media Make Progress Screening Scam Ads

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The media and advertisers have made some headway in heading off fraudulent weight-loss ads, Federal Trade Commission member Orson Swindle told an ad-agency crowd at an American Advertising Federation government-affairs seminar Wednesday.

He said in the four months or so since the FTC asked broadcasters and others to better "red flag" spurious claims, an early and informal study shows improvement. But he also said the media had to do more to screen out such claims. He urged all media outlets to adopt better screening procedures for such ads, saying those ads "speak poorly for the advertising industry as well as the snake oil salesmen."

He said he was not suggesting a massive clearance review process for all advertising, just better policing of the weight-loss ads that the commission has targeted for a full-scale assault because they are "a hell of a problem."

On a related topic, the growing obesity epidemic, Swindle said that though it is obviously a serious problem, restrictions on food ads weren't the answer.

He said the government tried, and failed, to go that route 25 years ago and shouldn't try to go down that road again. He pointed out that there were serious First Amendment problems with ad bans and that food decisions should  be left between parent and child, without a government middleman.

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