NAD Recommends Modification of Exercise Equipment Claims

Nautilus advertised its Bowflex TreadClimber exerciser as promoting substantial weight loss. NAD recommended that the broad claim of “All They Had To Do Was Walk” should be discontinued because its weight loss claims failed to sufficiently encompass the need to diet. 

NAD is the leading self-regulatory body scrutinizing national advertising campaigns. While NAD hears advertising challenges between competitors, it also initiates its own proceedings based on media monitoring. In February 2017, NAD reviewed television advertising claims made by Nautilus, Inc. for its TreadClimber as part of Nautilus’  “Just Walk” advertising campaign.

While Nautilus used a number of versions of the commercial, NAD reviewed a version that began with three individuals touting their dramatic weight loss results (“What was my secret to losing 60 pounds?” “110 pounds?” “130 pounds?”).  The spot also featured visual cues reinforcing the weight loss, including shots of a woman holding up pants that were several sizes too large and a photo of one woman that was taken when she was much heavier. The spot highlighted the quick timeframes in which the results were obtained such as “In just ten months”. The man and woman both then stated, “All I had to do was walk.”  The commercial went on to focus on the TreadClimber machine with a narrator stating that it combined the motions of a treadmill, stepper, and an elliptical machine to “burn up to two and a half times the calories of a treadmill in as little as 30 minutes three times a week. And all you do is walk.” The commercial also had a small, disclosure on screen in white type, against either a light background or moving images which stated: “Individual results will vary. In a recent study average fat loss for participants over 6 weeks was 18.8 lbs. Average weight loss was 17.4 pounds. Participants also followed the meal plan included with their TreadClimber.”

Nautilus argued that the express claim, “All you have to do is walk,” communicated only the message that a person had to do to burn calories using a TreadClimber is walk. NAD disagreed and determined that the testimonial statements that “All I had to do was walk,” coupled with the visual imagery of their significant weight loss, was tied to a more direct message of substantial weight loss. Here, NAD noted that advertisers may not make claims either through consumer testimonials or expert endorsements that could not be substantiated if made directly by the advertiser itself and that advertisers must have evidence to back up their underlying claims.

NAD recommended that Nautilus discontinue its use of the claim “all I had to do was walk” in the context of advertising that connects the claim to weight loss. NAD noted that nothing in its decision prevents Nautilus from otherwise communicating its intended message that exercising with the TreadClimber requires only a walking motion. NAD also found that the advertiser’s disclosure that participants followed “the meal plan included with every TreadClimber” contradicted the main message of the commercial that all you have to do is walk and recommended that the disclosure be discontinued.

Takeaway: Substantial weight loss claims must be combined with a diet requirement.  This is true in the context of dietary supplements as well as exercise equipment.  Moreover, a disclosure must be clear and prominent and cannot contradict the main message of an advertisement.  Furthermore, advertisers cannot use testimonials to make claims they otherwise could not make themselves.

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