Breaking the Advertising Code

Breaking the Advertising Code

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IHRB ignores the Therapeutic Goods Advertising Code. Almost every week, IHRB places full-page advertising in newspapers and magazines, including foreign-language press such as in Asian and Arabic papers, and in regional lifestyle, speciality, and Gay publications. IHRB also engages in a comprehensive Web campaign. Mr Cohen states that he spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per year on advertising.

[UPDATE: New Sanctions in November 2011 found IHRB’s ads unlawful and misleading. Read the latest by clicking here.]

The therapeutic Goods Advertising Code of 2007 (Therapeutic Goods Act 1989) can be found if you click here:

Clause 4.7 says, ‘Testimonials must not breach the Code. They must be documented, genuine, not misleading and illustrate typical cases only.’

I contend that:

The ads are always misleading.

They speak of a guarantee that does not exist. There is no guarantee.

The ads point to people who are either models, or those receiving payment or products in lieu of a testimonial.

The testimonials do not show how much money, time, and effort was expended to achieve the results — all of which are not typical.

The testimonials do not alert the reader that non-approved and dangerous medications were used.

The ads never explain that there are serious side-effects.

The ads use misleading words like herbal, organic, and natural extracts. None of these, if they exist, have any bearing on the results of actual hair re-growth.

The Code says, ‘Typical means that which reflects the characteristics of a group ie. a result obtained from the use of a product which would likely to be attained by most people using the product within the audience to which the advertisement is directed.’

All the people in the photos have either since gone bald or are taking non-approved dangerous products or are not in that state of cosmetic hair growth or are receiving free products to keep them locked in to provide testimonials by way of incentive.

The following provide some of the many example of how the ads are wildly misleading. I review each of the eight bullet points made in this image, which is an excerpt from a full-page advertisement:

Bullet point 1) Mr Cohen has a tricky way of setting up the photos. In my case, he blurred the camera at my final photo-shoot. When I pointed to the irregularity, he said that he was not willing to re-photograph my hair using his video digital camera. It was his way of capturing evidence to suit him, knowing that the camera was out of focus on purpose.

Bullet point 2) Mr Cohen is casting aspersions about his competitors, yet he calls his company an ‘Institute’ when in fact IHRB is not an Institute. Furthermore, he has neither medical nor pharmaceutical qualifications.

Bullet point 3) This point about lasers etc has nothing to do with his treatment. In any case, if he is emphasising that people should not use anything that is not ‘medically approved’ then he is misleading people because his treatments are not medically approved.

Bullet point 4) Mr Cohen is emphasising both ‘proof’ and ‘accuracy’. He provide neither of these for his treatment. There is no case-study, no clinical trial, no TGA approval, no accurate way of measuring hair growth and no safe way of monitoring a client’s condition.

Bullet point 5) Mr Cohen requested that I visit him frequently. His contract requires the client to purchase and only use his branded products which are useless and unnecessary because, like he accuses others, his products are ‘unnecessary and not treatments for hair regrowth’. He locks clients into on-going an recurring expenditure.

Bullet point 6) There is NO guarantee. Mr Cohen voids the guarantee in two separate ways. The guarantee does not exist. Also, the ad emphasises the misleading guarantee with a misleading ‘Full’. Every person in the ad was taking medications for which they had to pay extra (some were given product for free as a form of payback). To achieve the results shown in the ads, clients need to purchase other products. When those products fail, he blames the doctor, and he does not provide a refund on those items. Yet the consumer forms the impression that a ‘full’ refund would be due. This is totally untrue and completely misleading and a blatant and outright lie. Not to mention the expenses in visits to doctors, specialists, chemists, and expenses associated with driving in to see Mr Cohen in the city with tolls, parking, petrol, and time off work.

Bullet point 7) Mr Cohen does NOT specify the exact period of the treatment. As such, he is harming his clients because the moment they stop taking the non-approved and dangerous products, their hair will fall out. In my case, Mr Cohen did not specify the exact period and he did not list all the associated products (it was only later that he told me that I needed other non-approved products). It was when he refused my refund that he said that I had to use his products and be on his program for three years before I see a result.

Bullet point 8) Mr Cohen is implying that the competitor is tricking people into a lifetime treatment. In fact, Mr Cohen is guilty of the same trick. By disparaging others, he is leading readers to believe that his treatment is not a lifetime commitment. In fact, it is a lifetime commitment because hair will fall out when his clients stop taking the non-approved and dangerous medications. Also, he did not outline the total expenditure for me, and his guarantee does not encompass the total expenditure.

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