New York’s Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office has reached a settlement with Abbott Laboratories for conducting a misleading campaign for its Pediasure SideKicks products – Sidekicks and Sidekicks Clear. The products, introduced in 2010 and 2012, respectively, are sugary drinks with added vitamins and minerals.
Here’s how the campaign went: Starting in 2010, Abbott launched a three-year advertising campaign in print, television and online. As part of its “You Are What You Eat” campaign, Abbott ran ads on national networks, syndicated television, cable, national Hispanic television programs, Spot TV, Health Guru, and Hulu. Print ads ran in various parents’ and women’s magazines. Ads and coupons were also posted on Abbott’s website.
In the ad, a girl who looks to be 10 to 12 years old drinks SideKicks at home before heading off to her soccer game. At the game, the girl appears to be more energetic and to perform better than the other children, who seem sluggish and wear costumes depicting them as French fries and a chocolate frosted doughnut. The goalie, dressed as the doughnut, watches passively as the girl who drank SideKicks scores a goal. As the game progresses, the mother of the “French fries” child turns to the mother of the SideKicks child and states, “Does Tyler look a little slow? Maybe we should have skipped the drive-through.” The mother of the girl who drank SideKicks replies, “Well, kids are what they eat.” The advertisement concludes with the line, “New PediaSure Sidekicks…an extra kick of nutrition.”
A probe by the AG’s Consumer Frauds Bureau found the campaign “conveyed the misleading impression that children who consume SideKicks are more active and more energetic and perform better in sports than children who do not consume SideKicks. The investigation showed that Abbott failed to substantiate this claim and the statement in print and internet ads that SideKicks was ‘targeted nutrition’ for children’s ‘unique needs’.”
“False and misleading advertising aimed at our children and their parents is exploitative, illegal and may even contribute to the obesity crisis in our communities,” Schneiderman. “My office will prosecute false claims by companies that seek to hawk their products to New York parents who are trying to provide the best for their kids.”
Under the agreement, Abbott will cease its false advertising and pay a $25,000 penalty to New York State.
So, Abbott agreed not to display in its advertising and marketing, including on its internet websites, a label that either depicts fruit or contains the name of any kind of fruit in the product name. Federal law prohibits such displays for products that do not contain fruit or fruit juice unless the phrase “No Fruit Juice” appears above the nutritional facts panel.