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As more Americans age, there are increasing opportunities for companies to cash in on peoples' desire to stay "young" and healthy. And, Abbott Labs has taken full advantage ofthese marketing opportunities by convincing consumers to buy over $270 million worth of Ensure each year with promises that it will help them stay healthy, active, and energetic.
What is Ensure? It's a factory-made formula of water, fat, protein, sugar, and vitamins -- a formula that, contrary to the ad's implications, is not "a source of complete balanced nutrition." That's because Ensure lacks fiber and the hundreds of phytochemicals in fruits, vegetables, and other foods that may reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases. Unfortunately, the millions of people who see these ads might think they are better off with Ensure than with a salad, a sweet potato, a banana, or some broccoli.
Ensure was originally designed for people who mav have difficulty swallowing or digesting sufficient quantities of ordinary food. Although Ensure may be helpful for these people, it is completely unnecessary for healthy adults. Yet the ads imply that Ensure is "the #1 doctor recommended supplement" for normal, average adults. Doctors may recommend Ensure for the sick or the markedly underweight, but not for the healthy people pictured in these ads. The truth is that healthy adults don't need Ensure any more than they need baby formula in a bottle.
The other ads in this campaign that focus on the elderly present additional concerns. Older adults are more vulnerable to claims for products that promise to keep them healthy, active, and energetic because they are more likely to be physically inactive or impaired.
Most disturbing of all -- and the reason why Abbott has the dubious distinction of receiving this year's Hall of Shame Award -- is that earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated this ad campaign. As a result of its investigation, the FTC prohibited Abbott from making unsupported claims for Ensure. Yet the ads have changed only slightly: ads that used to describe Ensure as "# 1 doctor recommended" now describe Ensure as "the #1 doctor recommended supplement" -- hardly a noticeable difference. The ads still imply that doctors recommend Ensure for healthy adults, thus continuing to misinform, confuse and deceive millions into buying a product that they certainly do not need. It's time that the FTC gets serious and puts an end to this ad once and for all.
[ Hubbard Press Release ]