Consumer Reports is a rarity among magazines: It accepts no advertising and generally buys the products it tests. Its credibility tends to demand the respect of the companies it writes about.
Consider, then, the magazine’s March 2012 story about dietary supplements and the celebrities who endorse them. Noting that the Federal Trade Commission requires that endorsements “must reflect the celebrity’s honest experience or opinion,” it tried to track down some celebrity endorsers. Just two of six responded:
- NFL quarterback Michael Vick: his PR guys said Vick takes MusclePharm every day.
- Hockey hero Wayne Gretzky: his agent said Gretzky takes a MYO-T12 pill every day.
- NFL running back Ray Rice: his PR guy said Rice wasn’t available.
- Famous for no apparent reason Kim, Khloé and Kourtney Kardashian: their PR person said they weren’t available for an interview about a weight-loss supplement.
- Jersey Shore’s Ronnie Ortiz-Magro: no response to Consumer Reports’ efforts to contact him about a weight-loss supplement.
- Former coach/current Fox NFL analyst Jimmy Johnson: no response to Consumer Reports’ efforts to contact him about ExtenZE, a sexual-performance supplement for men.
Some questions for a classroom discussion:
- How does this make the products and celebrities look in the eyes of readers?
- Note that Consumer Reports wrote that “multiple efforts to reach”Ortiz-Magro and Johnson “were unsuccessful.” Why does the magazine use passive voice in these instances?
- Does an endorser have a responsibility to respond to questions about whether they actually use the products they endorse?
- Why do companies seek celebrities to endorse medical-focused products?
- What products have you bought (or not bought) because of a celebrity’s endorsement?
- Consumer Reports noted that dietary supplements can “come to market without proof they’re safe and effective,” because the FDA has few regulations. Should the government require that dietary supplements deliver proof of efficacy?