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Pom Wonderful sells ... sex?

October 4, 2010 |  7:32 pm

Everyone knows that sex sells. But can it sell pomegranate juice?

A week after the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against Pom Wonderful and its wealthy Los Angeles-based owners regarding marketing claims about health benefits, the juice maker is rolling out a TV ad campaign that is pitching the sensual side of the ruby-red fruit.

The ads -- besides showing a healthy amount of skin -- feature Eve (in strategically placed leaves) holding a tempting pomegranate in the Garden of Eden and hint that the Greek goddess Aphrodite introduced the pomegranate to the island of Cyprus, “where it was declared an aphrodisiac.”

A third ad opines how uber-ripped Persian warriors supposedly ate pomegranates before battle to become invincible and get “bodies as solid as bronze.”

(That last bit is kind of funny because bronze is actually a softer metal than steel, and that actor in the ad -- Eric Fellows -- has arms and abs of steel. But I digress.)

The FTC complaint against the company, and against Lynda and Stewart Resnick, allege they violated federal law by making "false and unsubstantiated claims" about the health benefits of their products.

Since its launch in 2002, the garnet-colored juice in the curvy little bottle gave way to a marketing craze of flavored fruit teas, martinis and salad dressings -- a culinary boom bolstered by Pom's products being advertised as helping to treat conditions including heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. (The company, according to its website, has spent more than $34 million to back pomegranate-based scientific research.)

The timing of the ads is ... well ... interesting. But Lynda Resnick, the person behind the company’s marketing success, told USA Today that the TV spots aren’t a response to the FTC complaint, but rather a whack at competition from soft drink giants Pepsi and Coke. The beverage companies, Resnick said, are adding splashes of the juice to their products and taking a bite of Pom’s market dominance.

“The aim of Pom’s first ever TV advertising campaign is to educate consumers in a provocative and sensual way about the intriguing history of the pomegranate, which is steeped with symbolism of health and vitality.  POM is proud to have explored the mythic properties of pomegranates using modern science,” Matt Tupper, president of Pom Wonderful, said in a statement.

The TV ads, which rolled out Monday, are also being featured on the company’s website.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Scene from one of the three new Pom Wonderful TV ads. Credit: Pom Wonderful