The 15 Biggest Lies Ever Told By Major Advertisers

Photo: Zappos

Advertising doesn’t have a reputation for being the most honest profession.While most people know that banner ads from companies you’ve never heard of that promise to melt away “20 pounds in a week, no exercise required!” should be taken with a grain of salt, some huge and highly respected brands are also guilty of telling their consumers major lies to make sales.

You’d have to be pretty dumb to believe some of them. Skechers once claimed that by simply putting on a pair of their shoes you’d magically get buns of steel. OthersĀ  went so far as to cite fake studies to prove their false selling points.

Here are the 15 biggest offenders.

15. That Dr. Koch's Cure All cured all.

Starting in 1919, Dr William Frederick Koch created a medication with a drug that he claimed could cure 'all human ills, including tuberculosis' and cancer.

But when doctors tested the drug in 1948, doctors found that glyoxylide, the drug in question, contained little more than distilled water. Koch treated cancer patients, many of whom died, primarily with the drug.

Although the FDA was vocal in their disgust with Koch, they couldn't find enough evidence to press charges. Koch ended up fleeing to Rio de Janeiro in the late '40s.

14. That will find your classmates.

Before there was Facebook, people were chomping at the bit to sign up for and contact their old high school friends and flames. The site eventually introduced a 'Gold' membership, which allowed members to email their old friends.

Anthony Michaels was lured into the Gold membership after sent him an email saying that an old friend was trying to contact him. That turned out to be a marketing ploy, so Michaels filed a class action lawsuit for false advertising. ended up paying $9.5 million -- $3 per subscriber -- in 2010.

13. That Airborne cures colds.

Airborne -- marketed as 'the one designed by a school teacher' -- got failing grades when it became public that there were no studies supporting its claims to kill germs and bacteria that caused flues and colds.

'It was so bad,' David Schardt, a senior nutritionist with the centre for Science in the Public Interest, told NPR.

In fact, Airborne had as much effect on a cold as a placebo or a Vitamin C pill.

Airborne had to pay $23.3 million in a class-action lawsuit.

Both Extenze and Enzyte falsely promised to give men a 'big new swing of confidence.'

Extenze ended up paying a $6 million settlement in 2010, and Enzyte's Steve Warshak was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he over-billed his customers.

11. That L'Oreal's face cream will make you look as good as Photoshop can.

The U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority banned this ad for being 'misleadingly exaggerated' due to excessive photoshopping.

The same goes for this Julia Roberts Lancome ad.

And Twiggy's spot for Olay.

11. That electric shocks cure AIDS and cancer.

Dr. Clark's Zapper made a series of ridiculous claims that its supposed parasite-killing zapper could cure cancer and AIDS.

Hulda Clark's book, 'The Cure for all Cancers,' states: 'All cancers are alike. They are all caused by a parasite. A single parasite! It is the human intestinal fluke. And if you kill this parasite, the cancer stops immediately.'

The Swiss-based company agreed to pay U.S. citizens refunds in 2004, and the director of enforcement at the FDA called the device 'fraudulent.'

Amoco launched a multi-million dollar campaign in the '90s claiming that its gas was more environmentally friendly because it was 'crystal clear' rather than a murky brown.

According to Mental Floss, 'at the time the country was going through a clear revolution.' Even Pepsi made a clear drink.

But the claim was unsubstantiated by any factual evidence and, therefore, Amoco was slapped with a fine by the FTC.

at the time the country was going through a clear revolution.

Read the full text here:
--brought to you by mental_floss

9. That wearing sneakers makes you skinny.

Skechers' used celebrities like Kim Kardashian to shill its Shape-up sneakers, claiming that you only had to tie your shoes to lose weight.

The FTC disagreed, and the shoe company ended up paying a $40 million settlement.

This ruling shouldn't have come as a surprise. Just a year before, also working under the assumption that people wanted to dress for work rather than go to the gym, Reebok claimed that its EasyTone shoes and clothing would automatically make people lose weight.

It ended up settling for $25 million, and everyone who bought the product was entitled to a refund.

8. That Hoover would fly people to the U.S. for free if they bought a vacuum. (Read the outcome below.)

In 1992, Hoover promised Brits two free round-trip flights to the U.S. if they spent just £100 on any Hoover item.

Sounds too good to be true? That's because it was.

When Hoover found out that it was unprepared to provide consumers with the free flights, it extended, rather than call off the campaign. Consumers wanting their prize then had to contact the company and send form after form after form to claim their tickets. Hoover hoped that they'd tire people out before they'd realise that the plane tickets didn't exist.

It lead to a parliamentary inquiry and cost Hoover £48 million.

7. That One A Day vitamins prevent prostate cancer.

Bayer had to pay hefty fines for claiming that one of its vitamin ingredients, Selenium, prevented prostate cancer.

In fact, studies have shown that Selenium not only fails to prevent the cancer in healthy men but can increase the risk of diabetes.

Bayer had to pay $3.3 million in Oregon, California, and Illinois for corrective advertising.

6. That Rice Krispies will save your children from Swine Flu.

In 2009, Kellogg's Rice Krispies claimed, in big letters, that the cereal 'Now helps support your child's IMMUNITY' by providing 25 per cent of daily recommended antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients.

The FTC told Kellogg to halt these 'dubious' and unproven claims. Kellogg's removed the wording on the boxes and explained that 'While science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system, given the public attention on H1N1, the company decided to make this change.'

One year before, Kellogg also got in trouble with the FTC for saying that Frosted Mini-Wheats increased kids' attentiveness by nearly 20 per cent -- without the studies to back it up.

5. That Nutella is good for you.

For those who subscribed to President Reagan's 'ketchup is a vegetable' belief system, Nutella created ads that claimed that its delicious, hazelnut spread is actually a nutritious part of a kid's breakfast.

Still, a mother of a 4-year-old sued, and Nutella settled for $3 million. People who bought Nutella between January 1, 2008, and February 3, 2012, could get reimbursed up to $20.

4. Another big advertising lie is that fast food looks as good in real life as it does in ads. Here's an advertised versus actual Whopper:

The same goes for Taco Bell ...

... and McDonald's.

2. That Listerine cures everything from dandruff to cuts and bruises.

It couldn't. Obviously.

Listerine claimed to be a cure-all since 1921, remedying colds and sore throats as well as acting as an after-shave tonic.

It wasn't until 1975 that the Federal Trade Commission ruled the ads misleading and slapped the company with a $10 million fine to pay for corrective advertising stating: 'contrary to prior advertising, Listerine will not help prevent colds or sore throats or lessen their severity.'

Then Listerine said that it was as effective as floss.

This claim also proved misleading.

A U.S. District Judge ordered Pfizer, Listerine's maker at the time, to pull the ads in 2005.

Although a 2010 class action suit against Listerine for the false advertising was thrown out for going 'overboard.' The ads were pulled quickly and, therefore, weren't exposed to a lot of people.

Even Santa said cigarettes cured throat sores.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.