False iHeart Endorsements Cost Google More Millions


Google has settled a lawsuit with the state of Texas over running deceptive radio ads for the Pixel 4 series smartphones. The ads featured iHeartMedia talent testimonials about the phone’s features, when talent had never actually used the phone. Google settled for $8 million, after paying $9 million to the Federal Trade Commission for the same offense.

The Google-written scripts had personalities say that they used the phones and loved the Night Sight feature that allowed them to take pictures in low-light environments without the use of flash. However, the phones had not yet been released when the ads first played and Google failed to provide any advanced Pixel 4 units.

The Texas Attorney General’s office said that Google’s ads were “blatantly false” and that the company was “lying to Texans for financial gain.” In a statement, Google says it “deeply regrets” the way the ads were handled and that it has taken steps to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

This also serves as a reminder for broadcasters to check their copy for authenticity. While they avoided a similar lawsuit from the state of Texas, iHeart was fined $400,000 by the FTC for this violation of trust in December, and entered a consent order with the Commission.

Media companies need to disclose any consideration received from companies for promoting their products and ensure that their statements about products are based on reasonable grounds. Endorsers should not claim to have used a product or achieved specific results if they have not. The FTC has provided guidance on these requirements, and media companies should familiarize themselves with these guidelines. It’s essential to be cautious in the advertising landscape and be mindful of potential legal issues that may arise.


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