Consumer groups yesterday picked 10 advertisement -- including ads for the Audi 5000-S and Arby's Roast Beef, a mailing by Household Finance Corp. and an advocacy ad by the Committee for Energy Awareness -- as the year's most misleading.
The groups also denounced the Federal Trade Commission, which they said is falling down on the job of protecting consumers from deceptive pitches by advertisers.
The Center for Auto Safety complained that Volkswagen's Audi ads made light of the Department of Transportation's crashworthiness testing program in an ad that depicts cars crashing into barriers. "At Audi, we also concentrate on going around them," the narrator notes.
"It was not intended to make light of any safety-related program," said Volkswagen of America spokesman Tom McDonald. He said the ads were designed to emphasize the car's superior ability "to avoid an accident situation, which is what we build into an Audi."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest said an advertisement for Arby's Roast Beef misled consumers by advising consumers to "go for the lean," despite the fact that its Super Roast Beef sandwich contains "the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of fat." An Arby's spokesman said that the ad campaign, which has been discontinued, was centered on a lean roast beef sandwich, which is lower in fat.
The Consumer Federation of America criticized a direct mail campaign by Household Finance Corp. in which the company sent unsolicited $1,500 checks during the Christmas shopping season. The checks, which bore the notation "not valid after 12/25/85" became an automatic loan at a rate of nearly 22 percent, according to the group.
A spokesman for Household Finance Corp. could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The Safe Energy Communication Council said that an advertisement by the U.S. Committee for Energy Awareness was misleading because it referred to coal and nuclear electrical generation as "home grown" energy. More than 48 percent of the uranium delivered to U.S. utilities is imported, the group said. A spokesman for the Committee for Energy Awareness said that the statistic is wrong and that almost all of the uranium used in nuclear plants is domestic.
Other ads listed by critics as misleading were an ad for a doll called "Upsy Baby" by Kenner Products, which the Consumer Affairs Committee for Americans for Democratic Action said misrepresented the degree of difficulty in getting the doll to operate properly; advertisments by Phillip Morris Cos. Inc. for Virginia Slims, which the National Women's Health Network said attempted to associate smoking with healthful activities such as tennis, and an advertisement for Colt 45 malt liquor, which drew criticism for linking alcohol and sexual performance.
FTC officials, who filed a complaint yesterday accusing R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Inc. of deceptive advertising, said that the agency is active and effective in cracking down on deception in advertising. "The FTC is continuing to bring cases against major advertisers as well as smaller advertisers who are running national advertising campaigns," said Lee Peeler, associate director for advertising practices at the FTC.