Monday, November 03, 2008

Good initiative

I 100% support Leys Geddes' initiative to fight claims of cure without any substantial evidence. (Though I still disagree with his early intervention "cure" claims! :-) If you know of any such cure claims, please send Leys or myself an email. Please also check out my Crackpot Posts highlightening similar issues.

Hello, Tom


We’ve all seen ads claiming to cure or eliminate stuttering. But as my company does a lot of consultancy work in the UK, in healthcare marketing, with big companies like GlaxoSmithKline, I know that the words used in advertising, and particularly in healthcare advertising, are normally very carefully written and policed.

So my feeling for some time has been that any organisation which claims it can cure or eliminate stammering gives false hope to people who stammer and gives people who don’t stammer the false impression that stammering can be dealt with quite easily.

Not only is the word ‘cure’ not used by speech therapists, but also it is not used in any other form of healthcare advertising, for any other condition, of which I am aware. No company, for example, is allowed to claim it can ‘cure’ even something as simple as a cold.

We had a Trustees Meeting of the BSA in the summer and discussed this issue. It was agreed unanimously that I should contact all the UK advertisers who are making doubtful claims and ask them to reconsider. If there was any disagreement, I would then refer them to our Advertising Standards Authority who, I know, are keen to stop advertisers making doubtful claims.

This simple plan is working out very well: all except one of the UK advertisers I have contacted so far have agreed to stop using the words ‘cure’ or ‘eliminate’ in their ads. The one which disagreed was passed to the ASA - and they agreed with us, and told them to stop it.

But a lot of ‘cure’ claims are being made in other countries and, with the increasing use of the web as an advertising medium, this can spill over into all other countries.

If you stutter, and the frustrations are immense, you might reasonably go to Google and enter ‘stutter cure’. You will then be greeted by a massive list of doubtful claims. Here are some examples:

- Loggita, who claim a 100% cure for stuttering in 25 days
- StammeringFree, who offer a stammer no more’ treatment, effective in 97% of cases
- JustBeWell, who will cure your stutter
- Stop Stuttering Secrets can cure you in three easy steps
- Stutter Cure, who, as you might imagine, will cure your stutter

This kind of slack and easy-going culture also affects the media, so that when they get served up a good story by the PR department of a stuttering ‘help’ organisation, they think they can talk about ‘miracles’ and ‘cures’ for stuttering, as everyone seems to do the same. And nobody stops them, because everyone is keen to sell their stuff, hype the outcome and give us a good happy story - and, hey, nobody does anything to say they shouldn’t. If you now put ‘stuttering cure’ or ‘stuttering miracle’ into YouTube, you’ll see what I mean.

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