Health Clinic’s Baseball Ad Strikes Out with Mouse Print Disclaimer

Though it makes for a fun guessing game.

| Jason Bagley

I was hate-watching a Yankees game the other day because that’s what you do when the team you root for is 30 games under .500 before the All-Star break — Go Orioles? — when behind home plate I saw an ad that grabbed my attention. Not so much for the main claim of the ad (“Lose Up To 20 lb Every Month,” though the FTC’s “gut check” claims for spotting false weight-loss representations may have something to say about that) but for the impossible-to-read disclaimer tucked away in the bottom right corner of the billboard:

At first I told myself to let it go. You’re not at work, said the voice inside my head, hate-watching the Yankees is, strange as it may seem, one of the ways you unplug, so unplug. But I had to wonder: What is Bernstein Diet & Health Clinics, the creator of the ad, hiding from us in this mouse print disclaimer?

Could it be that the only way to lose the 20 pounds is to eat turquoise-colored food? Or that it’s 20 pounds Canadian (Bernstein is based in Toronto, as are the Blue Jays, whom the Yankees were playing), which I assume is 90 percent maple syrup? Or that the weight loss is experienced on only one side of the body, but hey, you get to chose left or right?

Turns out, it’s much less interesting than any of the above. The disclaimer reads: “Compliance with our program is required. Contact us for details.” But I only know this because I asked Bernstein in a media inquiry and that’s what the clinic’s marketing manager told me the disclaimer says. But the larger question begged to be asked: Why include a disclaimer if no one can read it?

“While it may not be visible on screen as the action is happening,” the marketing manager said, “if a user does visit our website, it is available to view.”

Well isn’t that convenient for Bernstein. The problem with this is that disclaimers — both written and verbal — often limit the main advertising claim. For marketers, they’re a get out of jail free card — up to a point. (To quote the FTC, “What the headline giveth, the fine print cannot taketh away.”) So it’s crucial that consumers be able to read them, no matter how low their team falls in the AL East standings.

Jason Bagley

Jason Bagley, writer at, is still romantic about journalism and believes in its power to educate and inform.

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