The associate professor’s article examines the historical role of the Federal Trade Commission in regulating deceptive weight-loss advertising.
Julie Lellis, associate professor and associate department chair in the School of Communications, authored a June 2015 article, “Waving the Red Flag: FTC Regulation of Deceptive Weight-Loss Advertising 1951–2009,” in Health Communication. The monthly publication serves as an outlet for scholarly intercourse between medical and social sciences, seeking to improve practical communication between caregivers and patients and between institutions and the public.
The abstract for the paper reads: This article documents the historical role of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in regulating deceptive weight-loss advertising, which the commission began to prioritize in the 1990s after a dramatic rise in complaints. It also includes the results of a content analysis of more than 150 FTC complaints filed between 1951 and 2009, which were used to analyze trends in advertising content, liability for deceptive practices, and outcomes. Regulatory efforts may not have curbed the use of bogus weight-loss claims, which have only increased over time. The FTC has made attempts to apply broad liability, but advertisers and corporate leaders continue to be named most frequently over other respondents, including advertising agencies, media outlets, and product endorsers. Although the number of complaints that result in financial penalties is increasing, the FTC lacks systematic and specific policies to adequately deter advertisers and address what continues to be a growing problem.