Ad or Not? Slim Fast in Star Magazine

December 19th, 2016

Tabloid magazines are notorious for publishing pieces that blur the line between fact and fiction (though some stories are admittedly less believable than others, see Hillary Clinton’s adopted alien baby and killer kitten headed for lethal injection). But recently it was the lack of a distinction between editorial content and advertising that landed one tabloid in the crosshairs of the ad industry’s self-regulatory body.

The cover of the September issue.

On the cover of Star magazine — next to a headline about an alleged “Divorce Shocker!” between Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel that some sites have claimed to debunk — was the photo of a woman named Joann who allegedly had lost 40 pounds “snack(ing) away the weight” on Slim Fast.

Inside the magazine the related article relayed how Joann and two other women, Roslyn and Danielle, lost a combined 118 pounds using Slim Fast products, including the company’s 100-calorie snacks. In addition to being featured on the cover, these snacks were pictured at the bottom of the article, alongside the text, “Available at Walmart and all major retailers, or visit slimfast.com.”

Though the article disclosed that Joann, Roslyn, and Danielle were spokeswomen for Slim Fast, NAD ruled that both the cover and the article “were formatted as editorial content,” despite both being ads for Slim Fast.

Said NAD:

[A]dvertising in a format that appears to be editorial has the potential to misled or confuse consumers because consumers may attach a different weight or significance to editorial content than to pure advertising content.

In response to NAD’s inquiry, Slim Fast said it had permanently discontinued the ads.

Find more Ad or Not posts here.

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The National Advertising Division, or NAD, is the investigative unit of the advertising industry’s self-regulatory board. NAD asks advertisers to substantiate or change their claims in advertisements. As a self-regulating unit, however, its recommendations can be ignored by the offending advertisers. In those instances, NAD refers the offender to federal consumer protection agencies.

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