Results still aren't typical
If you saw a diet ad in the United States during the first years of the new millennium, chances are there was an inconspicuous asterix hidden somewhere with the text "Results not typical." These "product does not work" warnings weren't invented by the diet industry. They were actually mandated by the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC guidelines on the use of testimonials in ads were supposed to control false claims, but they came up with a little gift for the diet industry. As long as they qualified any non-representative testimonials with the "Results Not Typical" qualifier, they could make whatever claim they wanted. Didn't matter if the product failed 95% of the time or more. As long as you can document it working once, you were in the clear with just some fine print.
You may notice that this qualifier is no longer on diet ads. Is this because the results are now typical? Oh, goodness, no. Its actually because in 2009, the FTC decided the charade of "Results not typical" was just that. A charade. It determined that "best case scenario" testimonials were inherently deceptive and wrote new guidelines that forbid them. Well, that's what they said they were doing. What they actually did was empower the diet industry to fully resist a disclaimer they always felt was bad for business. The industry correctly recognized that the FTC really didn't have enough power to police their claims. It moved the qualifications off the ads and behind the scenes on flimsy "data" they could point to and shut down any FTC enforcement.
Basically, they were able to gin up "studies" that built atypical assumptions right into their construction. Those studies would show that the product worked just enough so they'd be immune from FTC enforcement. Didn't matter if the product only worked under very strictly defined circumstances and it didn't matter if there was no long term proof of success. The FTC's switch allowed the diet industry to do what they've long done in their marketing and that's blame dieters when diets fail. Their product works, you see. Its just the dieter that was doing it wrong. Their $40,000,000,000 industry is built on ensuring dieters always blame themselves for their failures and never the culture of dieting. This just codified that.
In the perversely inevitable result, we now see Weight Watchers replace that asterix with the slogan "Because it Works". Sure. You just need to "control" for all the times it doesn't work. Once you eliminate that data, the success rate is phenomenal! Basically, the new rule of fat shaming marketing is "Results Typical (If you ignore all the times it isn't)". Its a win-win for the diet industry. They lose the qualifier all at the price of continuing to blame fat people for the absurd record of failure the diet industry has left in its wake. What's not to love?
Just look at what passes for "working" with regards to Weight Watchers. A Lancet study of participants who all received the Weight Watchers program for free (a $500 value) lost an average of 10lbs a year. 10lbs is considerably less than the claims you'll see in any Weight Watchers ad and a good deal less than their claim that people can lose 1-2 lbs a week. Even that modest claim isn't verified by a study Weight Watches paid for to prove its success! And the study lost 40% of its participants in its 1 year. Gosh only knows what the results would look like 2 years out with all participants. But its something, and that's good enough for the FTC, I guess. Never mind that their latest ad includes a testimonial of someone who lost 100+ lbs. A result not typical even with the best data money can buy. It just doesn't matter anymore. The Weight Loss industry can lie all they want and no one will stop them.
The claims of Weight Watchers, and Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem are still not typical. They are still hand-selected testimonials, often of people who are professionally losing weight. They can still make atypical claims in their ads. The FTC just decided that they'll be the ones the diet industry has to make the tortured qualifications to, leaving them freer than ever to lie to their consumers. Fat shame is a very profitable business. Not "because it works", but because it doesn't.
at 8:53 PM