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Published on December 22nd, 2014 | by Bonnie Patten

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TINA.org’s Second Year In Review

With help from our readers, TINA.org’s second full year of operation was a definite success – helping to empower consumers against false and deceptive ads. Here’s a rundown of what we accomplished in 2014. (Click each title to explore)

+ 11 Legal Actions

This year TINA.org filed four complaints exposing deceptive marketing practices with the FTC and/or state attorney generals, three oppositions to false advertising settlements, sent two warning letters to companies using deceptive marketing tactics, and appealed two government records request rejections in Utah. As a result of these actions, the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection is investigating Bob’s Discount Furniture, Utah was compelled to turn over consumer complaints regarding three e-cigarette companies, Stansberry & Associates removed hundreds of improper financial testimonials from its website, and Utah fined and penalized Vapex and other e-cigarette companies that were the subject of a TINA.org investigation. In addition, following our 2013 complaint against the TEFL Institute, the company removed false claims and the website shut down.

+ 145 Ad Alerts

With hundreds of consumer tips coming in this year, we were able to post ad alerts for about 145 ads that were sketchy (to say the least). The top 10 alerts based on page views were:

+ 200+ News Posts and Blog Entries

From our special investigation of e-cigarette companies to our Terms of Surrender series on the sketchy details hiding in a company’s terms of service, TINA.org reported on hundreds of advertising issues this year with articles designed to educate and engage consumers about misleading marketing tactics and false advertising. A majority of our posts this year focused on business and finance, health, food and alcohol, supplements and native advertising.

+ 470+ False Advertising Class Actions

The number of class actions alleging deceptive marketing and/or false advertising that we were tracking in 2014 more than doubled from the year before to over 470 cases. Trending this year in new complaints were:

  • All-natural and organic products that really aren’t
  • Energy suppliers using bait and switch tactics
  • Flushable wipes that aren’t so flushable
  • Advertised discounts that don’t ring up
  • Kobe beef menu items that are missing the Kobe
  • Body building supplements that don’t live up to the hype
+ Eight Social Media/Search Advocacy Campaigns

In addition to the oppositions that TINA.org filed in the proposed settlements for the L’Oréal, Vitaminwater, and Glucosamine cases, TINA.org used various social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Vine to urge consumers to take action and find out more about deceptive advertising. On Twitter, we commandeered the hashtag #VemmaTruth from the Vemma corporation, an Arizona-based dietary supplement MLM company, to continue alerting the FTC and Vemma that improper health claims were being made on a daily basis to market the Vemma line of products. TINA.org also used Google ad campaigns to alert consumers to marketing issues with American Parasite, Lear Capital, and WakeUpNow. Finally, we are using social media to generate leads to improper health claims being made by e-cigarette companies.
+ TINA.org National Advertising Campaign

TINA.org launched its first national advertising campaign this spring to spread the word on our mission and to help us build an online community of consumers – on our website and our social-media pages – who will report false advertising, learn how to protect themselves and others from misleading marketing and take an active role in advocating for change. The campaign included print ads in the NY Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today in addition to digital, social media, video and search advertising.
+ 52+ Ads We Like

Every Friday we posted an ad that someone in the office liked. My personal favorite for 2014 is this one that was banned by our cousins across the pond.
+ Educating Readers

The press and media reached out to us on dozens of occasions to seek our commentary and analysis of deceptive marketing practices in 2014. You’ll find our quotes in USA Today, the Huffington Post, Business Insider, NPR’s Marketplace, the London Times, National Law Journal and The Verge, to name a few.

While there can be no doubt that TINA.org will be more than busy in the coming year as marketers continue with their deceptive practices, it is also true that we made a real difference in 2014. Thank you for the tips, comments and all the kind words you sent us this year. We look forward to working with and for you in 2015.

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About the Author

Bonnie Patten

Bonnie, executive director of TINA.org, is an attorney and mother of three. Her commitment to educating the public about deceptive marketing stems from her belief that education is the only viable way to effectively eradicate the market for false ads.



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