Share International's Fraudulent Ad System
Stephen Barrett, M.D.
During the 1960s and mid-1970s, Share International, which was the leading chiropractic practice-building organization, marketed a $19.95 advertising system that included 107 weekly newspaper ads that it said had been used effectively by successful doctors in many areas. Some ads contained pictures of the chiropractor; others were testimonials accompanied by a photograph of the patient. The headlines included:
- Cause of Severe Asthma Corrected through Chiropractic
- Discard Your Braces through Chiropractic
- Postal Employee's Ulcerated Stomach Condition Corrected
- Low Metabolism from Defective Nerve Endings Corrected
- Shifting Backbones Discovered by Scientist
- Cause of Headaches Not Usually in Head
Other ads headlined "These People Got Well" included reports of people with headaches; dizzy headaches; teen-age pains; colds and fever; asthma; hay fever; shingles; frequent colds; constipation; rheumatoid arthritis; menopause; thyroid troubles; and bronchitis. In each case, the chiropractor supposedly determined that the problem was due to "nerve interference" or other spinal problems that were corrected by chiropractic care.
In 1970, when a chiropractor in my community used some of the ads, I complained to the newspaper editor that they contained claims that I did not believe were true. When the editor inquired, the chiropractor admitted that he had not seen the patients mentioned in the ads. The newspaper then began requiring that case reports or testimonials be accompanied by an affidavit that the advertiser had actually seen the patient. The chiropractor placed a few such ads and then stopped. Meanwhile, I bought a copy of the advertising system and was able to collect about a dozen examples of use by chiropractors in various parts of the United States. The instructions for the system, shown in the box below, stated: "Re-type each ad on your own stationery for presentation to your editor. This would indicate that they are your own creations, and that the cases mentioned, conditions discussed, etc., are from your own files." The instructions also advised using a format that makes the ad appear to be an ordinary newspaper column rather than an ad. You can see the full set of ads by clicking on the original chiropractor's name.
TWO-YEAR ADVERTISING PROGRAM
This series of ads was compiled from four different sources, covering separate and distinct situations. As an advertising campaign, each of the four programs has been very effective.
A. Dr. Charles E. Smith's ads reproduced here are those used in his second year of this type of campaign. His 1800% return continues.
B. Dr. Roy E. LeMond has used this type of program successfully for more than 20 years. The articles reproduced here are chosen from the many he has written.
C. Dr. A. A. Altman has used these shorter, less expensive ads in starting a practice that has been successful from the beginning.
D. Drs. Sterling and Mary Ann Pruitt, in using their testimonial method of advertising, have built a huge practice over a period of several years.
It is not our intent or purpose to judge these ads on the grounds of ethics or any board rulings. All of these are presented as very successful chiropractic advertising campaigns which produced tremendous results when originally used.
To explain in detail how to use these ads, we will repeat the preface to the first, one-year edition of this set:
HOW TO USE THE ADS
1. Dr. Smith ran the ads each Monday. Monday's paper is about the smallest of the week, so your ad is less likely to be overlooked. Of course, if you have only a weekly paper in your town, then you have no choice. If your paper appears periodically other than the times mentioned, use your own discretion as to the best time for printing. However, try to miss the big, thick grocery ad papers. You might very effectively use such publications as Sunday throw-aways if they are well read in your area.
2. Use two column when possible, and use the same size type as your newspaper ordinarily uses (usually 7 or 8 point type). We naturally recommend using the same headlines, for after all "nothing succeeds like success, " and these articles have proved themselves.
3. Re-type each ad on your own stationery for presentation to your editor. This would indicate that they are your own creations, and that the cases mentioned, conditions discussed, etc. , are from your own files. Just make a drawing of the basic format of the articles and submit it to the editor. He will continue this arrangement throughout the series.
4. Carefully check each article for references to time of year, season and current events to make sure they are applicable. If any inconsistency exists, merely add a sentence or two to make it relate to your particular situation. One of the reasons these ads pull so heavily, we feel, is the personal doctor-to-patient style. Patients have so often said to Dr. Smith: "I've been reading your articles for some time now, Dr. Smith, and you seem so sensible in your approach to illness. I felt you were talking directly to me in so many of the articles, so I thought I'd come and see if you could help me."
5. If it is necessary to change the articles to make them applicable to you, be careful to retain the original essence. When referring to a case or a patient, use such terms as "a middle-aged lady who lives on Main Street. . . " or "an elderly gentleman from Route #4. . ." In reporting case histories, remember to review (a) how they felt, (b) what they did prior to coming to you, (c) results under your care.
6. When you first type the article on your stationery, do not put any kind of border around it. Merely place the word "Adv." at the end, as in the samples. If the editor attempts to put a border on it, ask him not to, since "Adv." is on the article. If they insist, then remove the "Adv." to make it appear the same as all the other ads in the paper. It might be that your particular paper requires both. If so, argue about it; but go ahead and print them nevertheless, if they reach the people you want to reach.
7. Don’t be apprehensive about repeating an ad; the essence of all advertising is repetition and domination. Watch for the articles that prove most effective as you go along, and repeating will be as effective if not more so than the first printing.
8. If you are low on money, start the ads the first day of the month; it will then be about the fifteenth of the following month before your advertising bill is due. By that time you will at least have enough extra income to take care of the bill. Then you should be on your way.
9. Another vital point: If any questions arise, write, call or wire us, NOT any of the doctors whose names appear on the ads. Any communications directed to them will only be sent to us, so we repeat: Write us, not them.
10. A final word of caution: Don't oversell or overcharge! Be a regular guy. Act as if the patients were referred to you directly by your mother. It is easy to take them for granted since you get them so easily. It's easy to get 'independent' knowing others will take their place. If you do this, you are defeating your purpose of building a life-long referral practice. Remember, you want these new patients to refer, for referred business costs nothing. Keep in mind "LS/MFT." This experience can be one of the greatest impetuses to your practice you've ever had. Plus, you will be enhancing your own welfare and that of your family while performing a magnificent service to your fellow citizens. Keep the LOVE concept out front!
(Printed in the United States of America - Parker Chiropractic Research Foundation, Inc.,
The System in Action
These reproductions illustrate how the advertising system was used. The ad below is from the set sold by Share International. The one to the right was used by the chiropractor in my community. The ads are identical except for one word in the headline and the note at the bottom of the local ad:
Marketing of the system appears to have ended in the early 1970s as a result of my exposing it through various press outlets.
In 1972, a syndicated newspaper column by Jack Anderson revealed that a prominent Pennsylvania chiropractor had used the system.
This article was revised on November 14, 2016.