NAD Reviews Claims for Nautilus’ Bowflex TreadClimber, Recommends Advertiser Discontinue ‘All You Have To Do Is Walk’ Claims

New York, NY – Feb. 22, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Nautilus, Inc. discontinue certain claims that state or suggest use of the company’s Bowflex TreadClimber will result in dramatic weight loss.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The Bowflex TreadClimber “All They Had To Do Was Walk” television commercial is part of Nautilus’s “Just Walk” advertising campaign. According to the advertisers, there are thirty-three other versions of the TreadClimber commercial.

The version reviewed by NAD opened with a man and two women declaring their dramatic weight loss results (“What was my secret to losing 60 pounds?” “110 pounds?” “130 pounds?”). Visual cues reinforced the magnitude of this weight loss, including shots of a woman holding up pants several sizes too large and a woman holding a photograph taken when she was much heavier. The man and one of the women then note the impressive timeframes in which they accomplished these results (“In just ten months,” “five months”). The man and woman both then stated, “All I had to do was walk.”

The next section of the commercial focused on the machine, as the narrator explained that it combined the motions of a treadmill, stepper, and elliptical machine to “burn up to two and a half times the calories of a treadmill in as little as 30 minutes three times a week. And all you do is walk.”

The commercial also featured a tiny and barely legible disclosure that appeared on screen in white type, against either a light background or moving images. The disclosure stated: “Individual results will vary. In a recent study average fat loss for participants over 6 weeks was 18.8 lbs. Average weight loss was 17.4 pounds. Participants also followed the meal plan included with their TreadClimber.”

The advertiser argued that the express claim, “All you have to do is walk,” in the context of the commercial, communicated only the message that all one has to do burn calories using a TreadClimber is walk. NAD did not agree. NAD determined that the users’ testimonial statements that “All I had to do was walk,” coupled with the visual imagery of their significant weight loss, was tied to a more direct message of substantial weight loss.

NAD noted that it is well established that advertisers may not make claims either through consumer testimonials or expert endorsements that could not be substantiated if made directly by the advertiser and that advertisers must have appropriate scientific evidence to back up their underlying claims.

The advertiser offered several studies in support of its claim. However, NAD noted, only one was relevant to NAD’s review. NAD was concerned about the reliability of the study, given that it was not sufficiently detailed to assess whether it constituted competent and reliable scientific evidence, its six-week time frame was too short to accurately represent the results claimed by the testimonial users, and it appeared to be neither designed nor conducted by scientific experts.

Study subjects also were presented with an optional meal plan, although the study investigators did not track subjects’ diets before or during the study.  It was not possible for NAD to discern the amount of weight loss achieved as a result of simply walking on the TreadClimber without dietary and/or other lifestyle modifications.

NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue its use of the claim “all I had to do was walk” in the context of advertising that connects the claim to weight loss. NAD noted that nothing in its decision precludes Nautilus from otherwise communicating its intended message that exercising with the TreadClimber is simple, only requiring a walking motion.

NAD found that the advertiser’s disclosure, “Participants also followed the meal plan included with every TreadClimber” contradicted the main message of the commercial (i.e., that all you have to do is walk) and was inaccurate in that there was no evidence that the study participants followed a meal plan. NAD recommended that the disclosure be discontinued.

The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said “we agree to comply with NAD’s recommendations. … While we respectfully disagree with the conclusions of NAD, we appreciate the NAD bringing its views to our attention and will consider its recommendations for Tread Climber advertising spots produced in the future.”

Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.