The Kellogg Company took to the national’s television airwaves to claim that its Frosted Mini-Wheat cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%.” The Federal Trade Commission said that claim applied to but a handful of clinically-tested children and had no place in an advertisement. The matter was settled via a consent decree.
Kellogg admits no guilt and further will not have to make a voluntary contribution to the US Treasury, as is frequently required under a typical consent decree. According to the FTC, it does “…bar Kellogg from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product. Finally, the settlement contains standard record-keeping provisions to allow the agency to monitor compliance.”
The ads went out in print, the internet and on packaging as well as on television. The FTC charged that they illegally misrepresented test results. It said only half of the children showed any improvement in attentiveness whatsoever and that only about one in nine improved by 20%. FTC also challenged another claim.
“We tell consumers that they should deal with trusted national brands,” said Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “So it’s especially important that America’s leading companies are more ‘attentive’ to the truthfulness of their ads and don’t exaggerate the results of tests or research. In the future, the Commission will certainly be more attentive to national advertisers.”
RBR/TVBR observation: There’s a new sheriff in town in FTC Chair Jon Leibowitz, and he hasn’t wasted any time at all getting his name out there. The word to the wise is to make sure you can back up any statistics you put into an ad.