Are you listening? Hearing device ad misleading and made-up
If ever there was a prize for how not to advertise a product, it would undoubtedly be handed to IntraMed. They're the folks that sell the Colonel Steve Austin-esque gift of super hearing* in weekend magazines and national newspapers. You know the one:
Amazing! The HearPlus device means "you don't have to dream about good hearing... because you can have it now with HearPlus!" Too good to be true? Of course of it is. Which bit in particular? Most of it, as the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) discovered.
A member of the public questioned whether the claims of the device's effectiveness were misleading and could be substantiated; fairly important when you want to stick something marketed as a medical product in your lughole:
IntraMed... said their American partners had got audiology experts to rate the HearPlus device on 10 different points, and that HearPlus had scored 10 out of 10.
IntraMed explained, however, that due to licensing laws they had been unable to obtain a copy of that report. They said they would now remove the claim from future ads.
Why would "licensing laws" prevent their "American partners" from simply emailing a copy of the "report" to the ASA, since the same "licensing laws" allowed the claims to be plastered all over the national press to sell the bloody thing?
The advert also claimed HearPlus had "earned a reputation as the world's most effective and reliable hearing amplifier". That's a big ol' claim, so the ASA asked IntraMed to substantiate the claim. Guess what?
IntraMed said the HearPlus device had earned that reputation, and that they believed it was the most effective and reliable device. They explained that they did not have any evidence to support that claim and would therefore consider changing it.
Note the cheeky defiant, tone of the response; IntraMed will only consider changing the advert, even though they have no proof whatsoever to substantiate their claim. Brilliant.
The ASA then suggested the ad misleadingly implied that HearPlus could alleviate hearing loss and that it functioned as a hearing aid. Rather than provide proof, IntraMed simply repeated the claim. Proving a statement by repeating the same statement isn't usually considered empirical evidence, as the ASA noted.
But wait, you cynics! What about all those happy customers? What about all those written testimonials in the advert, that you can still see on their website here? So many satisfied punters can't be wrong. Right? Um:
We noted that IntraMed had sent us copies of six of the eight testimonials featured in the ad. We understood that the CAP Code required marketers to hold signed and dated proof, including a contact address, for any testimonial they used, and that testimonials should only be used with the written permission of those giving them. We noted that most of the testimonials submitted by IntraMed were not signed or dated, and did not feature the writers' full address. We also noted that we had not been sent evidence that showed that the writers had given their permission for their testimonial to be used in the ad. Because of that, and because we had not seen copies of two of the testimonials, we concluded that the testimonials were not genuine.
To summarise then, it would seem that far from being famous for a globally recognised hearing device, InterMed will now be known for their bionic backside, out of which they make unsubstantiated and misleading claims. The Six Million Dollar Man never had one of them.
* There's no need to call; we know it was Jaime Sommers who had the bionic hearing, not Steve Austin.