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ASA Adjudication on TV Network Media Ltd

TV Network Media Ltd t/a TV Warehouse1

St Thomas House
Liston Road
Marlow
Buckinghamshire
SL7 1DP

Date:

22 August 2007

Media:

Television

Sector:

Retail

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

25419

Ad

Monitoring staff viewed an infomercial, for Power Pulse, a vibrating platform on which people stood to do exercises, on TV Warehouse1. The voice-over said “Introducing the PowerPulse fitness system. This breakthrough fitness phenomenon is a complete system that’s the answer to your biggest problem areas … The Power Pulse Fitness System gives you the tools you need to help slim down fast …”.

Rachel Hunter said “I hate going to the gym. So I’m always searching for great new ways to stay fit. That’s why I’m excited to introduce you to the PowerPulse Fitness System … I can have fun and get great results … The PowerPulse Fitness System gives you five powerful routines. It’s like having five machines in one. Recharge, reshape and relax your body with the energizing Power Pump cardio. Have fun while burning calories … Power Sculpt, discover PowerPulse secrets for getting a tight tummy, awesome arms and tight buns. Power Stretch, enjoy increased flexibility and mobility … And Power Perfect, this invigorating routine can help increase circulation, flexibility, mobility and it can even help elevate your mood … With the PowerPulse system, it looks simple and easy, but it’s a serious way to get long, lean sexy muscles and a stronger, healthier body.”

Biomedical engineer Tim Schukar said “The PowerPulse’s dynamic vibration technology can help improve circulation, increase flexibility, improve mobility, increase strength when you do a strength training workout, improve balance, elevate mood, increase vitality, bone density and muscle tone. These vibrations pulsate through the body causing invigorating muscle contractions … It can help you get great results compared to the same exercises that you do on the floor. In fact, a major university recently performed an EMG test, which measures muscle stimulation during exercise. They had participants do basic exercises on the floor, then on the Power Pulse. The test showed that performing trunk rotations on the PowerPulse increased muscle activity in the oblique muscles by 20%. And performing lunges on the PowerPulse increased muscle activity in the glutes by almost 30%. The EMG test shows that the PowerPulse can be very effective at generating additional muscle activations in some major muscle groups. Just do some of your favourite aerobic moves and the dynamic vibration causes your muscle to repeatedly contract.”

The voice-over said “An EMG test measuring muscle stimulation during exercise showed that doing this fun exercise on the Power Pulse muscle activity in that muscle group increased by almost 30%. Power Pulses’ dynamic vibration technology helps improve circulation, increase flexibility, improve mobility, increase strength when combined with a strength training workout. Improve balance, elevate mood and increase vitality.”

Mr Goglia said “recently I’ve been using the PowerPulse and it’s really a time-tested programme. You can really start to see your physique change in just a matter of weeks. This is like a perfect piece of machinery for fitness.”

Testimonial “I didn’t have to go to a gym and work out for hours and hours lifting weights to get results. I started seeing results immediately. Using the PowerPulse Fitness System I lost a total of ten and a half inches and two and a half percent body fat.”

Professional basketball strength and conditioning coach, Walter Norton Jnr, said “We use whole-body vibration with our professional athletes to acquire a higher degree of flexibility. We also use whole-body vibration to get stronger in a shorter amount of time. For most of our athletes, we’ll put them on the machine, whether it’s just standing still or while performing an exercise and we can achieve greater results quicker through the stimulus provided to the muscle.”

Cheryl said “my problems are my thighs. Oooh, especially behind the thighs. Oooh, cottage cheese. Oh, here I go. I’m jiggling, baby. Go ahead. I’m gonna work the glutes … This is just like the answer … to the prayers.”

Testimonial “Using the system, I’ve lost a total of ten inches, three inches off my waist. I can fit into my clothes again. It’s simple. That’s why it was so easy for me to lose all that weight.”

Testimonial “I can get on there and have some fun and sweat and feel like a brand new woman. I lost 11 pounds, 2% body fat and nine inches over my entire body.”

Issue

Monitoring staff challenged whether the Power Pulse would:

1.   enable weight loss;

2.   reshape the body in a matter of weeks;

3.   improve circulation;

4.   increase flexibility;

5.   improve mobility and balance;

6.   increase bone density;

7.   increase muscle tone;

8.   give better results than the same exercise done on the floor;

9.   increase oblique muscle activity by 20% and increase muscle activity in the glutes by almost 30%;

10.   result in achieving a tight tummy, awesome arms and tight buns;

11.   result in a stronger, healthier body;

12.   achieve greater results faster because of the added stimulus to the muscle provided by the vibration;

13.   reduce cellulite and

14.   enhance the training of athletes.

15.   Monitoring staff challenged whether TV Network Ltd had obtained suitably qualified independent medical advice on the efficacy of Power Pulse as a weight-control product as required by rule 8.4.2;

BCAP TV Code

5.2.18.4.2 5.1;5.4.4

Response

TV Network Ltd submitted several studies. TV Network Ltd submitted a letter from the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) confirming that claims 3 to 9 were acceptable.  TV Networks Ltd stopped broadcasting the infomercial when the investigation started.

1. TV Network Ltd explained that the weight loss was achieved by using the Power Pulse, the accompanying exercise DVD and by following a calorie-controlled diet.  They had included superimposed text over some weight loss testimonials stating "weight loss was achieved over 60 days using a combination of diet and exercise".

2.  TV Network Ltd maintained that Power Pulse could help to re-shape your body by increasing muscle tone and help you lose weight as part of a fitness regime and calorie-controlled diet.

3.  TV Network Ltd submitted a webpage from pausewellbeing.co.nz, a health and wellbeing studio; it stated "the rhythmic contractions of the muscles that occur during vibration training encourage blood circulation.  Vibration training improves the delivery and removal of metabolic wastes in the blood by enhancing blood circulation."  They also submitted an extract from the Bodyvibe International website, distributors of another whole body vibration platform; it maintained that "Whole body vibration improves circulation and oxygen delivery to peripheral tissues such as the feet, hands, skin and hair, as well as, organs, glands, muscle and fat.  The increase in oxygen and blood circulation also increases the ability of the cells to eliminate waste, respond to hormones and absorb nutrients, sugars and minerals.

4.  TV Network Ltd submitted a report from the British Medical Journal of Sports Medicine entitled "Acute whole body vibration training increases vertical jump and flexibility performance in elite female field hockey players".  The study concluded that "this study further substantiates the claims of other investigators that acute whole body vibration causes neural potentiation of the stretch reflex loop as observed by the improved arm countermovement vertical jump (ACMVJ) and flexibility performance.  Additionally, muscle groups less proportionally exposed to vibration do not exhibit physiological changes that potentiate muscular performance."  

5.  TV Network Ltd maintained that the infomercial clarified the claim by stating "also increase flexibility, improve balance and strengthen when used as a part of a strength training programme".  They submitted a study entitled "Low-frequency vibratory exercise reduces the risk of bone fracture more than walking" and maintained that the results on the elderly indicated the benefits for the general population.

6.  TV Network Ltd submitted two reports: "Prevention of Postmenopausal Bone Loss by a Low-Magnitude, High-Frequency Mechanical Stimuli: A Clinical Trial Assessing Compliance, Efficacy, and Safety" and "Transmissibility of 15-Hertz to 35-Hertz Vibrations to the Human Hip and Lumbar Spine: Determining the Physiologic Feasibility of Delivering Low-Level Anabolic Mechanical Stimuli to Skeletal Regions at Greatest Risk of Fracture Because of Osteoporosis", which they believed substantiated the claims.

7.  TV Network Ltd maintained that the claim merely stated "an increase in muscle tone", not a "significant" increase in muscle tone; they believed the studies they had submitted substantiated the claim.

8. & 9. TV Network Ltd submitted an EMG report and maintained that the results showed a 20% increase in oblique muscle activity and an increase of almost 30% in the glutes.

10.  TV Networks Ltd maintained that the claim referred to the use of the Power Pulse workout DVD "Power Sculpt, discover Power Pulse secrets for getting a tight tummy, awesome arms and tight buns".

11. TV Network Ltd submitted a webpage from pausewellbeing.co.nz, a health and wellbeing studio; it stated that "vibration training has recently surfaced in New Zealand as a method for improving health and fitness, toning up and for reducing the effects of osteoporosis.  It can also be used as a method for rehabilitation, to build up muscle tone and mass in individuals who are wheelchair bound and to enhance sporting performance ... The proven benefits of Vibration training include: increased muscle tone and mass.  Reduced risk of osteoporosis, increased blood flow and increase in secretion of hormones (including growth hormone) and improved bladder control and continence (related to its effect on muscle tone)."  

12.  TV Network Ltd submitted an EMG report and maintained that the results demonstrated that using the Power Pulse produced better results than working out on the floor.

13.  TV Network Ltd submitted no evidence to substantiate the reduce cellulite claim but they maintained that increasing circulation was the only method known to help reduce cellulite.  

14.  TV Network Ltd submitted a testimonial from Mark Verstegen, owner of Athletes Performance.  They maintained the claim was specific to the results achieved by Walter Norton Jnr and the athletes he trained, not all athletes generally.

15.  TV Network Ltd argued that they had positioned Power Pulse, as a tool to aid slimming, not as a slimming product.  As a result, they had not obtained medical advice on the efficacy of Power Pulse as a weight-control product.  

Assessment

The ASA understood from the BACC that, although they had had preliminary discussions with TV Network Ltd and had agreed some of the challenged claims, they had not approved the infomercial.

We noted that TV Network had sought Copy Advice from CAP for Power Pulses non-broadcast advertising and been advised that the evidence did not support the claims.  We also noted that, although they had stopped broadcasting the Power Pulse infomercial, the broadcaster had replaced it with another whole-body vibration product infomercial that made similar claims.

The Monitoring team sought expert advice. The expert advised that the direct sources of evidence supporting Power Pulses efficacy were significantly limited in their research approaches, trial design, protocol execution and data analyses.  The expert concluded that such limitations rendered the reports inadequate as substantive direct support for the claims.  The expert advised that the indirect evidence they submitted reached conclusions that were specific to the subjects tested, making the conclusions difficult to extrapolate for the general population.

1. & 2.  Upheld

The expert advised that, at best, whole-body vibration might have a marginal effect on body tone but had not been proven to specifically influence body fat or significantly re-shape the body.  We considered that the main method for achieving weight loss was a slimming regime in which energy intake of calories was lower than the output.  We considered that, although a meal plan was included with the Power Pulse, the infomercial implied that the benefits were mainly as a result of the £499 vibrating platform, not the diet.  We considered that the weight-loss claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.4.4 (Testimonials).

3.  Upheld

We considered that the website pages were inadequate to substantiate the claim.  The expert advised that no evidence supported the claim that Power Pulse would improve circulation.  We considered that the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

4. Upheld

The expert advised that whole-body vibration training might help enhance a range of motion when combined with the contra-release stretching method.  But she had seen no evidence to substantiate a claim of increasing flexibility generally.  She added that people might find doing some flexibility exercises on a small vibrating platform too restricting.  We considered that TV Network Ltd had not substantiated the claim that using the Power Pulse would result in an increase in general flexibility and so we considered the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

5. Upheld

For mobility and balance, the expert advised that some evidence supported a possible beneficial effect of whole-body vibration in the elderly but the expert cautioned that the benefits should not be extrapolated to the general population.  We considered that, because TV Network Ltd had not qualified them, the claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

6. Upheld

The expert advised that the study entitled of Postmenopausal Bone Loss by a Low-Magnitude, High-Frequency Mechanical Stimuli: A Clinical Trial Assessing Compliance, Efficacy, and Safety" was inadequate evidence because it was conducted on postmenopausal women, not a representative and relevant section of society.  She advised that the study entitled "Transmissibility of 15-Hertz to 35-Hertz Vibrations to the Human Hip and Lumbar Spine: Determining the Physiologic Feasibility of Delivering Low-Level Anabolic Mechanical Stimuli to Skeletal Regions at Greatest Risk of Fracture Because of Osteoporosis" was inadequate because the study was conducted on only five subjects and, although it demonstrated "a high level of transmissibility of ground-based vibration to the hip and spine", did not demonstrate an increase in bone density.  The expert advised that the evidence was inadequate to support the claim that Power Pulse would improve bone density.  We considered that the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

7. Upheld

The expert advised that whole-body vibration was associated with a small increase in lean mass; that might tenuously be interpreted as evidence for improved muscle tone.  She explained that the increase was not statistically significant and could have occurred by chance.  We nevertheless considered that, because no evidence existed for a perceptible change to muscle tone, the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

8.  Upheld

The expert advised that the evidence supported a possible extra effect from undertaking training on the whole-body vibration platform instead of on the floor.  The effect would depend on the activity because not all activities would benefit from it.  We considered that, because TV Network Ltd had not specified the exercises that would be improved by using the whole-body vibration platform, the claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

9.  Upheld

The expert advised that the efficacy of either a fitness exercise regime or taking exercise with an exercise device, resulting in systematic and targeted physical stress, should be evaluated directly.  Although muscle activity might be evaluated by using an EMG test, the data must be governed by strict analytical procedures to ensure that valid, generalisable interpretations were made.  She added that the interpretation of raw non-standardised data was inherently problematic and potentially misleading.  She explained that EMG data alone provided only an indication of the electrical signal arriving at the muscle; it did not provide information of the force a muscle exerts under contraction or, indeed, the work done by that muscle.  She explained that, to make assertions about a functional change in performance arising from an intervention, functional physiological measures needed to be taken.  For example, to evaluate muscle force some form of movement-specific dynamometry should be applied.  Equally, to evaluate force over time (muscle work), either movement-specific ergometry (external work) or indirect calorimetry (internal work) should be applied.  The use of infrared photography to evaluate the efficacy of Power Pulse was at best misguided and was potentially misleading.

For those reasons, the expert advised that the evidence submitted was inadequate to substantiate such specific claims.  We considered that the claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

10. Upheld

The expert advised that the advertisers had not substantiated the claims that doing exercises on the platform would target specific parts of the body.  We considered that the claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

11.  Upheld

We considered that the website page was inadequate to substantiate the claim.  The expert advised that evidence that whole-body vibration might help improve muscle tone and that generally exercise was good for the health but added that the advertisers had not submitted evidence that whole-body vibration alone made the body stronger and healthier.  We considered that the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

12. Upheld

The expert advised that no short cuts to fitness existed.  She said whole-body vibration could complement exercise but she had seen no evidence to substantiate the claim that it would result in "greater results quicker".  We considered that the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

13. Upheld

In the absence of evidence to substantiate it, we considered that the claim to reduce cellulite was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading), 5.2.1 (Evidence) and 5.4.4 (Testimonials).

14.  Upheld

The expert advised that, although evidence suggested that they used whole-body vibration as a training aid, athletes needed to concentrate on exercises that were relevant to their discipline and, as a result, not all training would be enhanced and neither most nor all athletes would benefit from that training approach. We noted the infomercial claimed "Everyone is getting in on the action, including feature film stars, super models and top TV celebrities like Rachel Hunter, professional sports teams, world class athletes and trainers to some of the best bodies in the world like body building champion and trainer to the stars, Philip Goglia ...".  We considered that the claim was misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading) and 5.2.1 (Evidence).

15.  Upheld

We noted TV Network had not sought expert advice on the efficacy of Power Pulse as a weight-control product and considered that the claims were misleading.

The infomercial breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rule 8.4.2 (Requirement for medical advice).

Action

We concluded that the infomercial must not be shown again in its present form and that the product should not be advertised without adequate substantiation for the claims made for it.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)

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