Private Eye reports Fiona Phillips exposé

  1. The current issue of Private Eye (1469) reports my Fiona Phillips exposé (see 25 April 2018 post).
  2. Private Eye is the UK’s number one best-selling news and current affairs magazine.
  3. You won’t find the report – or much else from the magazine – on the Eye website because the online presence is minimal. Here’s a scanned copy of the page from my subscription copy – see top of page: Private Eye 1469.
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Mirror columnist Fiona Phillips plugs optician, without disclosure of interest

  1. TV presenter Fiona Phillips writes a column for the Daily Mirror newspaper. Headed “… because she cares”, it’s in the Saturday edition. There Ms Phillips has been plugging well-known optician Specsavers recently, without disclosure of interest.
  2. I first noticed on 3 February 2018. Under the headline “Should I really have gone to Specsavers?” Ms Phillips described in far too much detail obtaining “soft, monthly, disposable” contact lenses that week at, er, Specsavers. She added helpfully: “… previously, because of my prescription, [such contact lenses] hadn’t been available to me.”
  3. At the time I was surprised Ms Phillips named the optician, but thought nothing more about it until 14 April 2108, when she was at it again. In a story headed “Home eye tests for those in need”, the TV presenter wrote about Specsavershome eye test service for “those who are mainly housebound or in a care home”. (Daily Mirror 14 April 2018) She finished: “Why am I telling you this? Because a survey conducted for the famous brand found that most people are unaware of this vital service. Should have gone to Specsavers?”
  4. There may be more examples, but these are the ones I’ve seen.
  5. On both occasions, Ms Phillips failed to declare a relevant interest. Specsavers is paying her to promote its home eye test service, the company confirmed in an email. She appears on the optician’s website (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Fiona Phillips on Specsavers website at 16 April 2018

  6. It’s not only TV doctors, therefore, who plug products and services in the Mirror, without disclosure of interest (see 5 April 2018 post). High-profile columnists do as well.
  7. Why am I telling you this?” Indeed.
  8. At date of publication Ms Phillips hasn’t responded to requests for comment.

Leaflet for “detox foot patches” even worse than ads

  1. Today (18 April 2018) Health Broadcast Ltd, a fake limited company, has surpassed itself with a leaflet promoting the ridiculous “detox foot patches”. The leaflet is even more concerning than the firm’s national newspaper ads for same (see previous post).
  2. The leaflet was an insert in – you’ve guessed it – the Daily Mirror.
  3. For many reasons, the leaflet is shocking. For a start, it makes so many misleading health claims. Here I ignore those. Instead, I want to highlight something about the leaflet that means we can quickly dismiss the advertiser, without even considering the ludicrous health claims.
  4. The front of the leaflet proclaims “Detox while you sleep!”, “see press article inside”: Leaflet front back. The so-called article actually appears on the back of the leaflet, below the banner, “national press coverage”. As you can see, a newspaper, national or local, isn’t actually named. Funny that.
  5. What does the so-called article say? Well, the headline is certainly familiar, “Detox while you sleep!” As is the author, Sally Jennings. But then so, too, are the photo and content! That’s because what’s presented as an article in an unnamed national newspaper is in fact Health Broadcast Ltd‘s ad in the national press (see previous post) – but this time it isn’t identified as an ad.
  6. The presentation of the ad in the Mirror, remember, is highly troubling: it’s labelled “health report”, and creates the impression it’s an editorial feature written by Ms Jennings. Now it’s even worse in the leaflet, where the ad is presented as an article in the national press.
  7. The dishonesty is shocking. As I say, there’s no need to examine the preposterous health claims.

Yet another ad for “detox foot patches” in the Daily Mirror

  1. Today (17 April 2018) the Daily Mirror newspaper carried yet another full-page ad for the ridiculous “detox foot patches”: Daily Mirror 17 Apr 2018.
  2. Again, the advertiser is Health Broadcast Ltd, a fake limited company I first wrote about on 15 August 2017.
  3. In January 2018, Private Eye reported my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by Health Broadcast Ltd for “detox foot patches” (see 25 January 2018 post).
  4. Why does the Daily Mirror continue to show such disdain for its readers this way?

TV doctor Xand van Tulleken plugs blood testing company, without disclosure of interest

  1. Dr Xand van Tulleken, a high-profile media doctor, is everywhere at the moment, including Channel 4, presenting TV show, “How to Lose Weight Well”. Naturally, there’s a “best-selling” book with the series. At the start of the year, the Daily Mail newspaper published Dr Xand‘s “Definitive Diet” in a separate pull-out section, based on the new book. He’s a busy man, then – and that doesn’t include the TV programmes he presents with identical twin brother, Dr Chris. The twin doctors‘ programmes together include “Operation Ouch!”, a BAFTA-award-winning medical show on Children’s BBC.
  2. On 3 April 2018, Dr Xand issued health advice in an article in the Daily Mirror newspaper, “The six reasons you can’t stop feeling tired: Dr Xand‘s must-read guide”. There he plugged consumer blood testing company Werlabs, without disclosure of interest.
  3. Dr Xand is an “ambassador” for Werlabs, according to his Twitter biography (screen shot in Figure 1).

    Figure 1. Dr Xand van Tulleken on Twitter at 3 April 2018

  4. On the same day, Dr Xand also tweeted a link to his Mirror article online (screen shot in Figure 2).

    Figure 2. Dr Xand van Tulleken tweets link to his Mirror article online (3 April 2018)

  5. It‘s bad enough for a doctor to plug medical products and services (for a discussion of this point, see 3 April 2017 post). It’s even worse if he/she does so, without disclosure of interest.
  6. Then there’s a second problem with Dr Xand promoting Werlabs: he describes himself as “BBC Doctor” on the Werlabs website (screen shot in Figure 3). Yet the BBC Editorial Guidelines are clear: “… it is essential that promotional activities do not undermine the integrity of the BBC, the presenter or the programmes with which they are associated.” (section 15.4.31)

    Figure 3. “BBC Doctor” Dr Xand van Tulleken on Werlabs website at 3 April 2018

  7. Thus it’s simply inappropriate for Dr Xand to plug Werlabs, given his role as a BBC presenter.
  8. Further, by describing himself as BBC Doctor” on the firm’s website, Dr Xand creates the impression that there’s an association between the BBC and Werlabs. But, again, the BBC Editorial Guidelines are clear on this point: “Advertisements or promotions undertaken by presenters must not in any way suggest BBC endorsement, undermine the BBC’s values, bring the BBC into disrepute, or give the public reason to doubt the objectivity of BBC presenters.” (section 15.4.33)
  9. Regular readers will know that Dr Xand isn’t the first high-profile media doctor to plug medical products and services, without disclosure of interest. Far from it. He joins the growing list that includes Dr Hilary Jones (see 3 April 2017 post) and Dr Louise Newson (see 10 October 2017 and 21 February 2018 posts). Unlike those two, though, Dr Xand responded fully and promptly – on the same day, in fact – when I requested a comment.
  10. About the Mirror article, Dr Xand said in an email: “I agree that disclosure of interests is extremely important. I make no secret of my connection to Werlabs. I’m delighted to be their ambassador: they’re a fantastic company, benefiting both the NHS and their customers. Nonetheless I completely agree that my relationship with them should have been in the article itself. I’ll make sure it is if the situation arises again. I will ask the Mirror to change the online text – that isn’t within my control but I can ask.”
  11. And on appearing as BBC Doctor” on the Werlabs website, Dr Xand added in the same email: “I didn’t realize that I was described that way on the Werlabs website. It is not only inappropriate, as you suggest, but but [sic] it doesn’t correctly describe my relationship with the BBC. I will ask them to alter it at once and I’m very grateful to you for pointing it out.”

Daily Mirror blurs the separation between editorial and advertising

  1. Here’s another newspaper, the Daily Mirror, reporting further comments by Andrea McLean, the TV presenter, about the menopause (“Menopause has given me short term memory loss.. I have to write everything in my notebook”, 3 April 2018) (Daily Mirror 3 Apr 2018).
  2. Like the Daily Mail (see previous post), the Mirror also reported” that the TV presenter was plugging a menopause-related clothing firm – and duly identified it.

Fake doctor’s endorsement in national newspaper ad

  1. On 8 November 2017, I saw an unclear and opaque ad in the Daily Mirror newspaper. It was for Nytric EFX, a food supplement that allegedly improves “sexual performance” in men: Daily Mirror 8 Nov 2017. The advertiser identified itself as Stirling Health Ltd. I complained to the company about two issues in the ad. In each case its response was unsatisfactory. So I then complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the UK’s regulator of advertising.
  2. The first issue was that both the ad and the Stirling Health website (screen shot in Figure 1) display an endorsement of Nytric EFX by Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA. Yet I can’t find him on DoctorFinder when searching by name for Jack Johnson in state Massachusetts. DoctorFinder is the online doctor search tool from the American Medical Association. It includes “virtually every licensed physician in the United States” – “more than 814 000 doctors.”

    Figure 1. Dr Jack Johnson endorses Nytric EFX on Stirling Health website at 14 November 2017

  3. I asked Stirling Health in an email why Dr Jack Johnson, Worcester, Massachusetts, USA isn’t listed on DoctorFinder. Its response was unacceptable. It wrote: “I can confirm the doctors who endorse our products and adverts do not use thier (sic) real names to protect their identity and avoid infulxes (sic) of people trying to contact them, when its (sic) us that can assist witrh (sic) any queries.” As you can see, the response isn’t credible. It’s illiterate too. My reasonable suspicion is Dr Jack Johnson doesn’t exist.
  4. Emily Henwood of the ASA said in an email the company had told the regulator it would no longer use the testimonial from the alleged Dr Jack Johnson in its advertising. This was following involvement of the ASA compliance team.
  5. The second problem with the ad is: wheres Stirling Health Ltd registered, if it’s registered anywhere? There’s no UK-registered company called Stirling Health Ltd, according to Companies House records. The company said in an email “Stirling Health” (note: without the “Ltd”) was registered “in the US”. It told me the registered office address is in Florida, USA. It quoted the Florida address then on the Stirling Health” (again, no “Ltd”) website (https://web.archive.org/web/20170705024734/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). The company stated it isn’t actually registered in Florida, though, after I pointed out there’s no Florida-registered company called “Stirling Health Ltd” or “Stirling Health,” according to the official register at Sunbiz (http://dos.myflorida.com/sunbiz/).
  6. The company refused to disclose where exactly in the USA its registered, explaining in an email it was “confidential, and commercially sensitive” information. Again, the response would be laughable, if wasn’t so serious. Any legitimate business would be happy to both disclose its name and say where it’s registered. Both pieces of information should be public. In short, is Stirling Health Ltd a genuine company? If so, where exactly in the USA is it registered? It’s not enough to simply say “in the US”.
  7. The ASA’s response on this point was disappointing: the regulator wouldn’t be taking it further, said Ms Henwood in an email. She added: “The Code [the CAP Code] states that marketing communications must not mislead the consumer by omitting material information. For marketing communications that quote prices for advertised products, material information includes the identity (for example, a trading name) and geographical address of the marketer. While we appreciate your concern that it isn’t clear where the company is registered, we note that the advertisers have included a trading name and contact details for consumers to get in contact with them. Given this, we consider that the ad is unlikely to mislead consumers on the basis that you suggest and does not break the rules.”
  8. At date of publication the Stirling Health website continues not to disclose where the company is registered. One change, though: the Florida address has disappeared. It now specifies an address in central London: 88-90 Hatton Garden, London, EC1N 8PG (https://web.archive.org/web/20180206063513/http://www.stirling-health.net/t/contactus). This is merely the address of a virtual office, you won’t be surprised to learn.
  9. A fake limited company flogging dubious “health products” from national newspaper ads, and hiding behind a virtual office address – it reminds me of Health Broadcast Ltd, a firm I first wrote about on 15 August 2017. Private Eye recently reported my linked exposés of national newspaper ads by that fake limited company for “detox foot patches” (see last post).
  10. Oh, this isn’t the first time a Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX has come to the attention of the ASA. In 2010, the regulator banned one of its ads for misleading health claims (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/howaboutthat/7195031/Advert-for-pills-that-guaranteed-sex-life-of-you-dreams-is-banned.html). It isn’t just on Health Broadcast Ltd where the Mirror continues to fail its readers, therefore. How much or how little due diligence did the newspaper do on the latest Stirling Health Ltd ad for Nytric EFX?
  11. Further evidence of how little: the Mirror’s excellent Andrew Penman wrote about Stirling Health Ltd in his column ten years ago, when the ASA again censured several, not just one, of its ads for misleading health claims (https://www.mirror.co.uk/opinion/money-opinion/p-s-investigates/triple-dose-of-health-rubbish-from-guernsey-534213).