A 30-minute infomercial for the DeLonghi America Caffe Sienna espresso/cappuccino machine included this statement from the host/announcer:

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A 30-minute infomercial for the DeLonghi America Caffe Sienna espresso/cappuccino machine included this statement from the host/announcer:

Brew cappuccino just like the pros do right at home.‡Up‡until now, the home machines, they just didn’t work.

The FTC ad division approached Jim McCrusker, the president of the U.S. unit of DeLonghi, on the grounds that the ad was misleading. The ad division, reacting to complaints from competitors, wanted Mr. McCrusker to add language that indicated it wasn’t that other machines didn’t work. The machines worked, but their frothing processes were not good.

Mr. McCrusker brought in other machines and consumers to talk with the ad division. The presentation of competitors’ machines, along with testimonials from consumers about the problems with other machines, convinced the ad council that the statement “They didn’t work” was indeed accurate for more than just the frothing process.

What lessons are learned from Mr. McCrusker ’s experience? Is documentation for ad claims important? Is it appropriate for competitors to complain to a regulatory body about ad content? [Sunbeam Products, Inc. v DeLonghi America, Inc., Not Reported in F. Supp. 2d, 2007 WL 1321134 (D.N.J.)]

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