ASA Adjudication on High Street TV (Group) Ltd
High Street TV (Group) Ltd
29 August 2012
Number of complaints:
A teleshopping presentation for an exercise device, "Total Core", stated "... How would you like to see a sleek and toned mid section in just minutes per day? Total Core has been designed to reshape your entire mid section 360 degrees around; abs obliques and lower back all at the same time ... it's just like sitting in a chair and you can get the trimmer mid section you want." A user testimonial stated, "I have lost seven pounds, 14 inches over my whole body and six around my mid section." Another said, "With Total Core I lost 14 pounds, six inches around my waist ..." A presenter introduced as actress Erica Shaffer stated, "... You're trimming and toning your abs back and waist." On-screen text that appeared periodically stated "Regular use of the Total Core will only contribute to weight loss when used in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet and healthy lifestyle".
The complainant challenged whether the claims for weight loss and muscle toning in the abdominal muscles were misleading and could be substantiated.
High Street TV (Group) Ltd (HSTV) said that they were careful to ensure that the duration of weight loss was within an acceptable timeframe, at no more than 2lbs (c. 1 kg) per week. They also supplied a study which they said substantiated the muscle toning effects of the product. HSTV said that as the study showed "lower motorunit recruitment [muscle activity] of the abdominal muscles compared to a conventional sit up" it could be used for a longer period of time which would result in greater toning results in the long term. A table was also supplied showing the weight loss and /or inch loss of 16 people.
Clearcast reiterated the advertiser's point regarding the longer period of time that the product could be used which meant it could help reshape and tone the midsection. They also said that the product offered additional elements designed to help tone and shape the abdominals, back and waist. There were various other products and a DVD that showed additional exercise regimes. Viewers could also receive advice to help them plan a calorie controlled diet. They said that the claims were based on an established view that weight loss could be achieved through a fitness and exercise programme with diet. This was highlighted during the ad as superimposed text appeared when weight loss was mentioned to inform consumers that the device would contribute to weight loss in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet and healthy lifestyle. Clearcast said the claims were therefore made in relation to an overall exercise programme, with additional fitness products other than the Total Core product and so should not be interpreted as referring to the device alone.
Clearcast also told us that the testimonials submitted formed proof that the weight loss claims were true and accurate as they referred to the use of the device in the context of a fitness programme.
The ASA noted that the table showed weight and inch loss results from people included in the ad which was accompanied with individually signed documents that said their testimonial and endorsement of the product was true, accurate and reflected their belief in the quality of the product. However, the table was not accompanied with supporting information about how the individuals lost their weight and whether this was objectively measured. We understood that a calorie controlled diet could help with weight loss. However, we noted the ad made multiple references to how Total Core would only contribute to weight loss if used alongside a calorie controlled diet and healthy lifestyle. Because the ad implied that the device would produce additional weight loss over and above a calorie controlled diet alone and as robust evidence was not presented that detailed how individuals lost their weight or inches, or whether the weight loss and toning was enhanced by the use of the product, we concluded that this claim was not adequately substantiated.
The report submitted by the advertiser considered whether or not Total Core would have resulted in lower muscle activity and therefore could be used for longer periods of time compared to unsupported sit-up exercises. We noted that the 20 study participants, of variable fitness levels, took part in a range of exercises that used the device, on one supervised occasion and that surface electromyography was used to measure the activity of specific muscles. Whilst we acknowledged that active muscle movement would elicit a response greater than passive or no movement, we noted that the trial was not of sufficient duration to demonstrate a beneficial effect and did not measure whether muscle tone improved. In addition there was no follow-up period to measure longer term effects of the device on muscle tone. Because the evidence did not demonstrate an effect on muscle tone over time, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.12 (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told High Street TV (Group) Ltd to ensure they held robust evidence to support claims made for their products.