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Donny Osmond Breaks the FTC’s Celebrity Endorsement Guidelines on Dr Phil

Recently, Donny Osmond was a guest on Dr. Phil. I was watching this closely as those with connections to LifeVantage said that the company promoted this appearance at their annual get-together. I was prepared for a mention of Protandim. Here's how it went down with the YouTube Video to follow:

Donny Osmond: Non-stop energy.
Dr. Phil: I can not even imagine. For example last night, you did a show last night, that was 90 minutes starting at 7:30, then you went through that, then you came here, you're here this morning.

Donny Osmond: That's right...
Dr. Phil: Doing all this...

Donny Osmond: It's non-stop. I don't sleep anymore. (Laughs)
Dr. Phil: So where do you get the energy. Seriously, I mean look at you. We've known each other a long time. You don't ever get older.

Donny Osmond: Well thank you. It's quick funny because people are kind of shocked when they hear that I'm 54 years old and they say, "How do you keep your youth?" I have found something Dr. Phil that I think is the closest thing to the Fountain of Youth.

Dr. Phil: Oh you do have a secret?
Donny Osmond: I have a secret and I've never really talked about it. I've been doing this for the last two years. It's called Protandim and it works and I'm telling everybody about this.

Dr. Phil: You feel differently.
Donny Osmond: I do.

Dr. Phil: Because you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off.

The video goes on from there, but it isn't relevant to Protandim in any way. It's worth watching just to get the full context of the exchange:

There are several concerning things by this video. If you read the title, you know the one that I'm most concerned about. However, before I get to that one, I'd like to address the others.

  • Protandim Being Compared to a Fountain of Youth - This is completely irresponsible, especially coming from a paid company spokesman like Donny Osmond.
  • "It Works" - This is the kind of marketing that MonaVie distributors have been making for years in the comments here. In the case of Protandim which isn't intended to make someone be younger, look younger, nor treat, prevent, or cure any disease... these companies can only make vague statements like these in hopes of misleading consumers to think, "Hey, I've got [fill in the blank condition] and could use anything that "works."
  • Dr. Phil's "We've known each other a long time." - Now we know why he let Donny Osmond endorse a product he's paid to endorse without adhering to the FTC guidelines (see below).
  • Donny's "I've been doing this for the last two years." - This is proof positive that Protandim hasn't made him any younger. Even according to Dr. Phil, "You don't ever get older." It is classic question, which came first the chicken or the egg. In this case we know what came first. Donny Osmond has looked young for a long time (my wife notes his obvious plastic surgery) and he got a contract with LifeVantage because of it. The cause of the LifeVantage contract was that Donny Osmond, it was not a case where he looks young due to Protandim. This is another case where LifeVantage misleads consumers.
  • Donny's statement of "I have a secret and I've never really talked about it." - Really? Since he became the spokesman for Protandim he's talked about several times. The only thing that's a secret is that he's a paid spokesman and isn't disclosing it.

And that last point segues to the biggest point Donny Osmond and LifeVantage are not heading to the FTC guidelines for celebrity endorsements. Here's a quote from the FTC:

Celebrity endorsers also are addressed in the revised Guides. While the 1980 Guides did not explicitly state that endorsers as well as advertisers could be liable under the FTC Act for statements they make in an endorsement, the revised Guides reflect Commission case law and clearly state that both advertisers and endorsers may be liable for false or unsubstantiated claims made in an endorsement – or for failure to disclose material connections between the advertiser and endorsers. The revised Guides also make it clear that celebrities have a duty to disclose their relationships with advertisers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional ads, such as on talk shows or in social media.

I've bolded the last sentence for effect. It specifically addresses this case of Donny Osmond not disclosing his relationship with LifeVantage on a talk show. The average Dr. Phil viewer would not be aware of LifeVantage hiring Donny Osmond to be its spokesman and this is clearly a deceptive advertisement as defined by the FTC.

The FTC goes into it more detail, in their official guidelines... specifically in section 255.5 under Example 3:

"Example 3: During an appearance by a well-known professional tennis player on a television talk show, the host comments that the past few months have been the best of her career and during this time she has risen to her highest level ever in the rankings. She responds by attributing the improvement in her game to the fact that she is seeing the ball better than she used to, ever since having laser vision correction surgery at a clinic that she identifies by name. She continues talking about the ease of the procedure, the kindness of the clinic’s doctors, her speedy recovery, and how she can now engage in a variety of activities without glasses, including driving at night. The athlete does not disclose that, even though she does not appear in commercials for the clinic, she has a contractual relationship with it, and her contract pays her for speaking publicly about her surgery when she can do so. Consumers might not realize that a celebrity discussing a medical procedure in a television interview has been paid for doing so, and knowledge of such payments would likely affect the weight or credibility consumers give to the celebrity’s endorsement. Without a clear and conspicuous disclosure that the athlete has been engaged as a spokesperson for the clinic, this endorsement is likely to be deceptive. Furthermore, if consumers are likely to take away from her story that her experience was typical of those who undergo the same procedure at the clinic, the advertiser must have substantiation for
that claim."

I wish my crystal ball was as functional as the FTC's because they saw this coming a mile away. It is similar in many ways. The big difference is that laser vision correction surgery is FDA approved and "Protandim as a Fountain of Youth" is, well, the exact opposite. We still have the celebrity endorser not disclosing the paid relationship with the company. As the FTC points out this endorsement is likely to be deceptive (the FTC was erring on the side of caution, it IS deceptive.)

I think one could make a case that consumers are likely to take away that Donny Osmond is a typical example of a Protandim taker and clearly the advertiser, LifeVantage, can not substantiate the "closest thing to the Fountain of Youth" claim.

Originally posted 2012-02-09 05:17:46.

This post involves:

Donny Osmond

... and focuses on:

Looking for the complete story about LifeVantage Protandim? Read Lazy Man and Money's post about Protandim.
9 Responses to “Donny Osmond Breaks the FTC’s Celebrity Endorsement Guidelines on Dr Phil”
  1. Connie Says:

    I am a person who has been taking protandim and it has changed my life. I have several diseases and was fitted for a wheelchair the week I started taking protandim. I am walking independently and I have my life back.
    What cracks me up about all you have to say about protandim and yet your ads, to pay for this website, are ludicrous. Is there nothing better you can do with your time? Maybe you study the science behind protandim instead of “dogging” it.

  2. protandimscams Says:

    Connie, are you going to be the 6,000 person to make an anonymous miraculous health claim without a doctor to back it up. Looks like it. It’s just another reminder that MLM Health Testimonials are Pointless.

    I don’t choose the advertisements on this website. They are done by Google AdSense and can either reflect Google’s view of the content on the site or what Google knows about your own browsing habits on the Internet.

  3. Coach Tony Says:

    I just heard of this product and it’s sad that people feel they have to be unethical or break rules to share a great product. I know someone who has a personal testimony – who was chronically ill until he found this product. (I am neither a rep nor customer… literally heard about it this morning and came home to do my research.) As a student of nutraceuticals for many years, it all makes sense. Most of all, what I see is adrenal support and that alone would take a stressed person from lethargic to energetic.

    I also find this odd. For some reason the best kept medical secrets are all held by network marketing companies (insert sarcasm.) What’s worse is that most MLM reps (in their sheer desire to make money) make all kinds of claims that make me cringe (from a legal perspective.)

    There is money in health, and I guess I would rather see it go to working people as opposed to greedy Pharma execs. I just hope people see the value and can share with integrity rather than hype. Hype will never sustain any effort like a personal testimonial.

    Additionally, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did have a cure for cancer and the gov (FDA) was trying to shut them down. The cancer biz is very corrupt and if you don’t believe me, watch this shocking expose’ – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrJ1B46q7PE


  4. protandimscams Says:

    Tony thanks for the comment,

    From your website, it seems like you have some information about MLMs. If you’ve looked into a few of them, you’d find that every super juice and supplement company that sells MLM products has many, many testimonials of how their product helped a chronically ill person. I could point you to a few hundred on MonaVie alone (see the comments at here). It sounds like you inherently know this when you say, “I also find this odd. For some reason the best kept medical secrets are all held by network marketing companies (insert sarcasm.)”

    I can think of a few reasons why this would be the case. I wrote about them here: why MLM health testimonials are pointless and it doesn’t need to be rehashed in this space. A good start would be understanding how the placebo effect helps people and how that might be magnified when the prospect of the product working can solve their financial problems as well. That’s got to put someone in a good mood, getting the endorphins going, and perhaps help the pain hurt less. The point here is that health testimonials in general, but more so in MLM, have zero value.

    The money in health doesn’t have to go to pharmacy executives. It can go to whoever puts together the proof that their product works. We have a system in place with the FDA involving placebo-controlled studies.

    It sounds like you don’t believe the FDA is reputable. The video you showed supports the Burzynski Cancer Clinic Scam, a topic I wrote about previously. If you want to talk more about it, please continue the discussion there. Even if you believe that the FDA is not reputable, LifeVantage could take its product to another country and get approval there. LifeVantage could hire independent labs to perform the placebo-controlled studies and then present that to the world. That’s really all we want to see, proof that the product works. LifeVantage hasn’t taken positive steps with clinical studies in 6 years on that front. They seem to feel that they don’t need to because they’ve got those medical claims that make you cringe. That sells enough product to keep their greedy, lying execs rich.

    By the way, you have an article on your site about MLMs and pyramid schemes– where you say, “I am referring to companies that come into existence where the reps don’t use the products, but simply buy them because it makes the cash flow work. To me, that’s just a few unhappy reps away from being classified as an illegal pyramid.” Even if reps do use the products, it can be classified as an illegal pyramid. The thing that makes it not an illegal pyramid is largely based around sales to people outside of the network. For more information see this page with tons of analysis and links to the FTC on the topic: http://www.mlmmyth.org/mlms-vs-pyramid-schemes/

  5. yurunningscared Says:

    took my post down, eh? i knew i was right, you cowards!

  6. protandimscams Says:

    No, your comment had nothing to do with this article on Donny Osmond and FTC guidelines on endorsements. It was moved to the LifeVantage Protandim Open discussion:


    You’ll notice that there is an extensive response. Not feeling so right now are you?

    Please make sure your comments address the topics in the article or they will be moved to the appropriate place.

  7. oxide Says:

    Looks like Donny is at it again, this time appearing on his sisters talk show. If you jump to the 15:00 minute mark, you’ll find Donny talking about how Protandim “works” and how he describes why we age, specifically he says:

    “…when we’re born, our cells have a communicator to our DNA. As we get older that communication kind of stops, that’s how we get older. And it’s been proven to keep us, or stop the aging process”.

    I’d love to see this proof.

    He then points to a hired gun in the crowd, Dr. Brooks M. Hyberston (McCord’s buddy) to qualify that, once again, “it works”. According to Hyberston,

    “independent research done all over the world confirms that it up-regulates cell survival genes and decreases oxidative stress, so it works”.

    Independent research? Really?

  8. Mrs. Ria Says:

    Goodday to you all.
    I have been asked to sell this product in Holland. They told me I would earn a lot of money. I think it is just like a piramid: I earn a little, the person from whom I buy earns something more on it etc. etc.

    They told me that it is a supplement, a miracle that heals cancer, cleans your body, good for brains etc. I never heard of this supplement before, but I can imagine that if it has such wonderful characteristics the complete health system over the whole world would use it. However, this is not the case.
    So, I do not believe this story.

    Can you give me an advice what to do herewith.

    Thanks in advance!

  9. protandimscams Says:

    I would just direct the person who introduced you to this website or the one highlighted above and then move on with whatever else you have going on in your life.

  10. patricia Says:

    since taking protandum, I can honestly say I am the best I have ever been. I can now run 25 miles per day, work 80 hrs per week, clean my 3000 sq ft house everyday, do homework with my kids, have sex 4X a day, and I climb mount Everest twice a month. who are you freakin kidding???? health is about lifestyle, and especially good food. supplements are very good for us but they must be accompanied by super healthy eating, excerise, and a happy emotional state. there are no magic pills!


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