The researcher who discovered the possible life-extending powers of resveratrol sold his company for $780 million, which probably means he doesn't need to sell his endorsement to a company called FWM Laboratories that operates out of a shabby industrial neighborhood near I-95 between Stirling and Sheridan. Oh, and most legitimate scientists don't sell their opinions at any price.
Still, a recently published story in Business Week singles out FWM as one of the internet companies that has run misleading internet ads about its product and that has invoked the name of that resveratrol researcher, David Sinclair.
FWM CEO Brian Weiss says FWM doesn't create the ads, approve them, or place them on the Net. It delegates those tasks to ad networks, which the company pays to spread the word about its products.
So he paid them, but then they went rogue? Well, that might be fraud or at least grounds for a lawsuit against these naughty advertising networks who take your money but don't produce ads you sanction. Who are these rogue marketers so that they can be unmasked and not victimize other supplement makers?
He declined to name the ad networks he used.
Ah! It appears FWM is determined to seek justice by its own means, like the A-Team. How exactly is it going to do that?
Weiss told the magazine he "has five employees who troll the Internet all day for improper promotions."
It's easy to see how those five investigators are doing. Pretend you're a prospective customer skeptical about what the famous scientist has to say about one of the leading resveratrol supplements. You'd Google "Sinclair resveratrol ultra" -- the name of the scientist and the name of the FWM product.
The recently posted Business Week article is now the first hit, but the second hit (this may change in the hours after this post) offers a link that says "Doctor Sinclair," followed by "Resveratrol Ultra Extends Life and Health." Click on the link, and video of Sinclair's 60 Minutes appearance plays automatically, next to an article boasting about the product. Click for the free trial, give your email address, and credit card. Just like that, the clock on the 15-day free trial begins. (Of course, it may be hard to know in just two weeks whether you've extended your life past its natural death.)
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Some of the fault lies with Google's ad-placement software. Enter "Sinclair resveratrol" into the search engine and the second advertisement, above the unadvertised hits, is for the FWM product Resveratrol Ultra. That leads to a Yahoo shopping page that claims, falsely, that the product was featured on 60 Minutes.
If you think FWM makes a rather unconvincing "victim" in this advertising campaign, you've got company: The Business Week article reports that the Florida Attorney General's office has opened an investigation and that the state's Better Business Bureau rates FWM with an F. Consumer messageboards are full of complaints.
But in an ironic twist that shows just how entrenched in media are misleading internet ads, the Business Week article points readers to a CBS News report on the same subject. That leads not to an actual news report but to this annoying clip that plays on a loop until you're hypnotized into believing that indeed, "CBS News is very good news."