The Secret Tibetan Lubricant

This is a news story with multiple ingredients.  On March 15, CCTV ran an exposť program (see YouTube video) on the weight-reduction diet tea known as "Secret Tibetan Lubricant."  Consumers were filmed saying that the product did not perform as advertised.  The program also pointed out that the spokesperson for "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" was Guo Degang.  The immediate suspicion was whether CCTV is punishing Guo Degang, who had declined to appears on the Spring Festival Gala.  Next, there is the issue of advertising regulations.  For food and healthcare products, advertisements are supposed to be screened and approved by the government.  In this case, the manufacturer submitted certain advertisement for screening and received approval.  However, the actual advertisements that appeared were new versions that were completely unrecognizable.  Then there is the question of the responsibility and liability of celebrity spokespersons.  Guo Degang was interviewed by the press.  Better yet, he made a statement on his own Sina.com blog.


(CCTV)

In the Chinese advertising law, it is stated that healthcare products cannot advertise curative effects.  However, the product known as "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" not only claimed to have miraculous powers, but they also have celebrities who showcase the product.  Many consumers were influenced by these advertisements, and therefore spent money uselessly.

61-year-old Wang Litong is a Beijing consumer.  After seeing the advertisement for "Secret Tibetan Lubricant," the health-conscious Wang Litong purchased two packs.  Beijing consumer Wang Litong: "It had no effect.  I did not have the oil expulsion nor the black oily feces that they advertised about."

Ge Xuejin of Daqing is 58 years old.  She saw that three packs of <Secret Tibetan Lubricant> could eliminate a bulging belly and therefore the 98-kilogram Ge Xuejin purchased three packs in order to lose weight.  Ge Xuejin carefully followed the instructions on the booklet.  But there was no effect on her other than annoyance.  Daqing consumder Ge Xuejin: "After more than 20 days, I weighed myself.  I had gone from 98 kilograms to 200 kilograms.  I spent more than 90 RMB to purchase those three packs.  That may not be a lot of money, but I am disappointed."

...

During the investigation, our reporter found out that the marketing plan for "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" involves advertising in multiple stages.  As a result, "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" sells well in many places.  How much is the annual sales?  Close to 100 million RMB.  It is the top-selling weight-reduction product.  The popular star Guo Degang earns more than 200 RMB alone.

Reporter: "Master Guo, you are a spokesperson for 'Secret Tibetan Lubricant.'  Will you accept responsibility for your actions?"

Guo Degang: "Of course.  This concerns issues of personal safety and must not be taken lightly."

In many western countries, celebrity endorsements are treated as "testimonial advertisements" and "public guarantees."  In the event of false advertising, the consumers may sue the celebrities for damages.  In China, although many celebrities are endorsing products, there is no corresponding law.  In the recently concluded Congresses, a member of the Political Consultative Committee recommended that celebrity spokespersons who engage in false advertising be held liable.

(Beijing News)

Concerning the alleged false advertising for "Secret Tibet Lubricant," CCTV had an exclusive interview with the State Food and Drug Supervisory Administration.  The relevant leader said that the diet tea ad for "Secret Tibet Lubricant" advertisement was released after changes in multiple places.

Healthcare advertisements must go through review by the provincial Food and Drug Supervisory Administration before receiving an approval for release.  There is not supposed to be any modification of the approved advertisement content.  In this case, the Drug and Supervisory Administration approved three advertisements for "Secret Tibet Lubricant," one for television and two for print.  But the company went and showed versions that were different from the three approved ones.  The consumers saw advertisements for "Tibet Secret Lubricant" that were vastly different from the approved ones.

According to the information, the approved television commercial was only fifteen seconds in length and there were no words like "Secret Tibet Lubricant" or written Tibetan characters.  Furthermore, healthcare advertisements cannot express judgments or guarantees for the products, and consumers or image spokespersons cannot be used to testify on the effectiveness of the product.  Yet, the actual "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" advertisements not only presented spokespersons and consumers to recommend the diet product, but they also employed absolute language.

The print advertisements for "Secret Tibetan Lubricants"  were also modified beyond recognition.  Originally, the "Hundred Herbs Weight Reduction Tea" was supposed to have healthy effects such as body weight and cholesterol reduction.  Instead, it has now been inflated to become the miraculous "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" concept which can expel body oil, relieve constipation, eliminate bad breath, flatten out bellies, improve skin looks and all without any side effects.  Safe, quick, no side effects ... these misleading advertising terms are explicity forbidden in the relevant state regulations.

...

After the "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" advertisement with Guo Degang as spokesperson was exposed as possibe false advertisement by CCTV, the Beijing Consumers Association published an open letter to celebrities and stars for the third time to urge them not to personally endorse or promote products that they have never used or do not understand.

The Consumers Association pointed out that five problems exist with celebrity-endorsed commercials.  One, some celebrities do not understand the product that they are promoting, but they will claim in the commercial that the effects are good.  Two, the celebrities use absolute language in advertisements for medical services and drugs, and thereby mislead consumers to take action.  Three, the celebrities break the law when they promote the exceptional qualities of healthcare and food products.  Four, the celebrities do not indicate that the drugs are expensive nor disclose the true contents, causing the consumers to spend enormous amounts of money without any effects.  Five, these actions cause the public to become suspicious and distrustful of celebrities and stars in general.

(ent.TOM.com)

Reporter: Did you see the just broadcast program on CCTV's 315 Evening Gala about "Secret Tibetan Lubricant."

Guo Degang: I did not watch the program.  But I just heard about it.  I was shooting the new 2007 film for "Secret Tibetan Lubricant."  It will be shown on March 21 and 22.  I heard that there will be stars in it.

Reporter: Before you became their spokesperson, did you check the veracity of the commercial.

Guo Degang: Before I became spokesperson, I have read their documents of approval and I did not see any problems.  Before the product went on the market, I personally used this product.  I drank it for more than two months.  I felt that there was a definite effect.  But this effect will differ by person and cannot be said to work on everybone.

Reporter: You drank it for two months.  How many kilograms did you lose?

Guo Degang: I was too busy working and I do not remember the number of kilograms.

Reporter: Based upon what the program said, the tea does not contain any Tibetan tea ingredients.  Did you know that?

Guo Degang: I are not sure about that.  But I want to ask -- if so many people are saying that are problems with the publicity for this product, then why did the relevant government department wait around for this product to be sold for one year?  Why did they do nothing until they "hyped" it up on 3.15.

(Guo Degang's Blog)

Yesterday.

315.

CCTV.

The lightning strikes.  In the middle of the screen.

Secret Tibetan lubricant.  Condemned by thousands.  Hated by tens of thousands.

I was asleep.  Disaster has crept up to the door.  A voice murmurs: Destroy him ...

1. Someone asked me to become a spokesperson.  The product is "Secret Tibetan lubricant."  I am wary.  I asked for some to try for myself.  I let some neighbors and friends try it.  It was acceptable.  I didn't worry anymore.  I am not the first actor to become a spokesperson.  But I must be among the first to try a product.  Not every spokesperson has tried the product.

2. I asked the manufacturer to bring over the relevant documents and I read that the product has authoritative acceptance.  I was assured.  If you say that it is no good now, you should ask the authoritative figures!  If the documents were fake, then I am a victim too.  We can all go and complain.  Meanwhile, if "Secret Tibetan lubricant" is so bad, then why did our supervisory department let it continue to suck up the people's money around China for one year?  Is this serving the people?  CCTV is slapping the Supervisory Administration hard!

3. Everyone has a unique physique, and so it cannot be guaranteed that the "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" will be effective for everybody.  When you buy it, you should ask the salespersons in detail and then take it accordance with your body.  For example, ginseng can make some people healthy but other people die immediately upon ingestion.  Can you say that ginseng is poison?

4. Someone doubts the claim on the advertisement that fat bellies can be flattened because this does not work.  Oh, that is being melodramatic.  There are pictures of big chunks of shrimps on instant noodle packages, but has anyone gone to complain about the manufacturer?  On the print advertisement for "Secret Tibetan Lubricant," there are four Tibetan girls.  Would you like to have them as well?

5. This same nitpicking will apply to every similar weight-reduction product.  Do you want to tackle all of them, or just Guo Degang alone?  If you only want to come after Guo Degang, then someone ought to stand up and explain.

6. Another question was how "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" can be sold at more than 20 RMB when it only costs 6 RMB to make.  You cannot pick on this.  At the big hotels, a plate of stir-fried shredded potatoes costs more than 50 RMB.  If you grow potatoes in your own bedroom, it will be really cheap.  If you don't like something, you should just ignore it.  Why get upset?

7. It is hard to predict things.  A big star is a spokesperson for a hospital which specializes in treating infertility.  You cannot demand that the star know everything about gynecology, and you cannot expect that every patient who underwent treatment there will become pregnant.  If you bring your great-grandmother there and she fails to become pregnant, will you curse out the spokesperson star?  Wrong, you ought to blame your great-grandfather.

8. There are many dramas in the world.  During the day on March 15, the "Secret Tibetan Lubricant" advertisements were busily being filmed and the manufacturer's representative was looking forward to the future.  In the evening, I called the manufacturer to ask about the exposť.  The manufacturer laughs and said: "During the past year, there have been several similar events.  Most of the time, it is some competitor taking advantage of ..."

9. Suddenly, I heard children commenting outside the door: "This is the price to pay for not appearing on the Spring Festival Gala."  I got angry and I went out the door to scold them: "You stupid people know nothing.  How dare you talk nonsense!  People like you will never appear in the Spring Festival Gala!"