Extenze Settles a False Advertising Suit; Now the FTC Should Go After Jimmy Johnson

Last Updated Dec 1, 2010 6:41 PM EST

Extenze will pay $6 million to settle a false advertising class action lawsuit -- of course the pills don't work! -- so it seems appropriate to reopen my invitation to the FTC to go after the company's spokesman, former Dallas Cowboys head coach and current Fox NFL Sunday host Jimmy Johnson.

Johnson signed on as Extenze's celebrity endorser just weeks after the FTC published new rules that hold liable any celebrity who is paid to tout a product they know doesn't work. Now we know Extenze does not work. So Johnson has potential legal liability for breaking FTC regs.

In fact, Extenze no longer claims to do much of anything. On its web site, it makes some vague statements about "male enhancement" and "enhanced sexual pleasure" but the key words are at the bottom of each page:

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. ExtenZe® is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
That legal boilerplate is a virtual confession to false advertising by the companies that use it. Previously, Extenze's ads made some laugh-out-loud false claims such as:
A capsule that can make a man larger ... scientifically proven to increase the size of a certain part of the male body.
But Johnson's ads aren't that specific. He limits his bunkum to:
Does Extenze really work? ... It works for me and since Extenze has sold over a billion tablets to men I'm thinking it works for them too. ... go long with Extenze. I do!
And:
Extenze does things only one way -- really, really big.
Those sound like claims that are constructed to not technically be claims -- a legal defense advertisers try at their peril.

Extenze is still claiming that it's "clinically tested," and its celebrity doctor, Daniel S. Stein, has published work in "peer-reviewed medical journals." But none of his work shows up in a search of Pubmed, the online database for peer-reviewed medical research. What an unfortunate oversight!

The other reason the FTC needs to bring action against Extenze and Johnson is that if it does not, then bogus pill hucksters will be able to create a marketing plan based on the Extenze lawsuit. Price in the settlement, the cost of a celebrity pitchman, make the ad claims vague enough, and you've got a business model for snake oil.

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