[authors: Tom Jirgal and Ken Florin]
Nutrisystem, Inc., provider of weight loss programs and services, agreed to add disclosures to weight-loss success stories “pinned” to the company’s Pinterest board entitled “Real Consumers. Real Success,” after the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, found that the four stories were testimonials requiring disclaimers under the FTC’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
Pinterest is a popular image-sharing social media site that allows users to “pin” images they’ve created or found on the internet onto their own virtual pinboards – theme-based collections of images. All pinboards are public and can be found by searching categories of interest on Pinterest’s main page. When a user pins an image to a pinboard, Pinterest automatically links the image to its original source. Visitors can return to the original source of the content by clicking on the image as it appears on the pinboard and companies that use Pinterest can direct consumer traffic back to their own websites by pinning content from those sites.
Nutrisystem’s Pinterest “Real Consumers. Real Success” pinboard contained photos of four “real” Nutrisystem customers, as well as names of the customers, the total weight the company claims each had lost using Nutrisystem’s products (ranging from 46 to 223 pounds), and a link to Nutrisystem’s website. According to the NAD’s inquiry, which the NAD conducted in the ordinary course of its routine monitoring program, Nutrisystem did not dispute that these pins were testimonials. Because the consumer testimonial pins touted atypical results, they required clear and conspicuous disclosures noting the typical results consumers can expect to achieve using the Nutrisystem weight loss program under the FTC Guides. Noting that if consumers browsing the Nutrisystem Pinterest board clicked on the pins, they were redirected to Nutrisystem’s website, which included the necessary qualifying information, the NAD reiterated that disclosures must not only be clear, conspicuous and easy to understand, but placed in immediate proximity to the claim or representation it is intended to clarify. NAD concluded that disclosures on the company’s website, are not sufficient because the consumer may or may not visit the site.
Following NAD’s inquiry, Nutrisystem immediately added the necessary disclosures, which the company explained are included in all Nutrisystem advertising containing testimonials, were inadvertently omitted from Pinterest.