Unsubstantiated Claims

Some advertising is clearly false advertising, and some is clearly misleading, but there is also advertising which is unsubstantiated, and it is not clear if it is false or misleading.

Claims are made which have not been substantiated and/or cannot be substantiated. When unsubstantiated claims are made, it may be very difficult or impossible for consumers to know or find out if they are false or misleading.

Modeling firms make unsubstantiated claims in their advertising because they want to enjoy the benefits and the effects of their advertising without the accountability.

This is not acceptable to the FTC, and it does not get them off the hook. The FTC has prosecuted companies which made unsubstantiated claims. The FTC says:

Claims must be substantiated, especially when they concern health, safety, or performance. The type of evidence may depend on the product, the claims, and what experts believe [is] necessary.1

The BBB Code of Advertising says:

The primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser. Advertisers should be prepared to substantiate any claims or offers made before publication or broadcast and, upon request, present such substantiation promptly to the advertising medium or the Better Business Bureau.2

Potential models should make decisions based on advertising which is substantiated and can be checked and is found to be neither false nor misleading but true.


Besides unsubstantiated claims about who uses a modeling service, there are unsubstantiated claims about which models an agency discovered.

The claims are designed to impress the consumer, and the claims most likely to impress consumers are that they discovered well-known and popular models or supermodels; therefore, claims are made they discovered famous women like Cindy Crawford.

The head of a model scouting convention claimed someone she knew discovered supermodel Cindy Crawford: "Marie [Anderson] also discovered Cindy Crawford."

If you have watched the documentary about Cindy Crawford called Intimate Portrait, where Cindy Crawford is interviewed from beginning to end, along with her father and mother, you may not remember hearing Cindy ever saying she was discovered by Marie Anderson.

However, many people have claimed they discovered Cindy Crawford.

For example, some say she was discovered by the Elite "Look of the Year Contest" in 1982 at age 17 when she lost.

Another claim (from a Northwestern alumni website!) was an unnamed photographer discovered Cindy Crawford at a mall while she was a student at Northwestern University, and suggested she try modeling.

Another claim was Chicago photographer Victor Skrebneski discovered Cindy Crawford while she was at Northwestern.

Then there was the claim Cindy Crawford had already been discovered when she was 16 by the local news photographer where she lived in DeKalb, Illinois.

So who do you believe when all these claims are made about how a model was discovered and by whom?

Why not hear it from the horse's mouth? Why not listen to Cindy Crawford tell the story in her own words?

The following quotes are from the Intimate Portrait documentary (CC = Cindy Crawford; IP = Intimate Portrait).

When she was a 16-year-old high school student, Cindy's summer job was detasselling corn.

CC: "There was a local photographer who worked for the paper, and in DeKalb, like, the one photographer covered everything, from, you know, if there was a fire, to high school basketball games, parades, all that. And he came up to me, and asked if he could do some pictures of me. They were published, like, in the local college paper."

IP: "Suddenly people were saying: 'Cindy you should be a model.' "

DC: "I took off work one day, and her and I drove into Chicago, stopped at a phone booth, I think, I think we tore the Yellow Pages out of modeling agencies, and literally went around the city up into these offices."

The first agency they visited was not keen. They noticed her mole, and raised the possibility of removing it, but they agreed to a test shoot.

The first test shoot pictures were awful: the clothes, the hair, and the makeup.

IP: "Some new test photos were taken and suddenly Cindy Crawford had a job offer -- a modeling job offer."

CC: "My first job was a bra ad for Marshall Fields."

Cindy Crawford was already discovered and she was already a model while she was in high school, that is, before she moved to Chicago.

She was already getting enough work modeling in Chicago that in her senior year in high school she studied in the morning, and worked as a model in Chicago in the afternoon.

Despite her focus on modeling work while she was in high school, she still graduated with straight As in June 1984, and in fact she won a scholarship to Northwestern; she attended Northwestern in the fall of 1984.

But the documentary said Cindy Crawford left Northwestern after only one semester to model full time in the spring of 1985. She realized modeling could not wait, whereas she could return to study later, so she dropped out of university.

The reason for the claims Victor Skrebneski discovered Cindy Crawford could be that after dropping out of university, she worked with him in Chicago for two years. "I was modeling in Chicago for, really, two full years."

Skrebneski was the premier fashion photographer in Chicago, and she credits him with teaching her a lot about modeling and professionalism, but not for discovering her.

Since Cindy Crawford had already been modeling before she worked with Victor Skrebneski, the claim he discovered her is obviously bogus. He himself may not have taken credit for discovering Cindy Crawford, but others give him the credit.

Ironically, Crawford credits Skrebneski for being the person who tried to manipulate her from becoming an international model by moving from Chicago to New York and working for a top agency.

IP: "Elite, a top modeling agency, wanted her in New York."

She said she was scared.

CC: "Victor Skrebneski did not want me to leave and he kinda told me he was the only one who could take a good picture of me, and I would be a fool to leave, and if I did leave, he would never work with me again."

It looks as if they have never worked with each other again -- or even spoken to each other again!

IP: "Victor and Cindy have not spoken since the day she left Chicago in 1986."

The preceding account is simply to illustrate the fact unsubstantiated claims should not be accepted without proof. When companies make claims about supermodels, don't buy it without proof.

The modeling industry is one industry where you should not believe what people cannot prove, especially if your believing unsubstantiated claims results in you making payments of hundreds or thousands of dollars.

Making unsubstantiated claims costs the company nothing. Accepting the unsubstantiated claims can set you back substantially.


1. http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus28-advertising-and-marketing-internet-rules-road

2. http://www.bbb.org/us/code-of-advertising/

Related Articles

Advertising and Marketing on the Internet: Rules of the Road by FTC

BBB Code of Advertising