The same rules apply no matter where you advertise: online, on the radio, in print, or on television. You have to tell the truth.

Take this seemingly harmless example: Cereal giant General Mills claimed Cheerios “can lower cholesterol”. The label was later changed to “can help lower cholesterol” after the Federal Trade Commission found the claim untrue.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) exists to protect consumers from false or misleading advertising. When consumers see or hear an advertisement, federal law says that the ad must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientific evidence. The FTC enforces these truth-in-advertising laws, and it applies the same standards no matter where an ad appears.

So how does this affect advertisers?

The FTC Act prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium. Here are just a few of the guidelines on advertising that the FTC requires you to adhere to:


      • All claims must be backed by evidence. This evidence is especially important when health, safety, or performance are concerned. How often did you take the popular vitamin supplement Airborne before hopping on a flight during cold and flu season? Advertisers claimed it helped ward off harmful bacteria and germs and prevented sickness, but there was no scientific backing to say the same. Basically, we were paying a premium for a regular multi-vitamin. The company settled a $23 million lawsuit.


      • Sellers are responsible for claims they make about their products and services. Agencies, and even designers, can also be liable if they know the advertising is deceptive.


      • Disclaimers and disclosures must be clear and easily visible. These include hidden fees such as activation fees, delivery fees, shipping fees, you name it. Even those attorneys that claim “no fee unless we win” must disclose what a “win” is in their book.


      • Demonstrations must show how the product will perform under normal use. Infomercials have moved from the 3 am TV time slot to widely accessible social media platforms. The anti-aging ads that use 27-year-old models are a great example – how does the product work on a 47-year-old?


      • And the FTC recommends taking extra care when advertising to children, as they might have a harder time evaluating if claims are true or false.


In addition, there are rules and regulations on such matters as multi-level marketing, financial issues, free product offers, testimonials, guarantees, and more. Bottom line – tell the truth. And whether in-house or using an agency, always make sure that your proverbial I’s are dotted, and T’s are crossed. Your product and any advertising of that product reflect your business, and your reputation is everything.


In conclusion

Make sure your message is clear, honest and representative of your company. If you’d like to chat more in-depth about how our team can help achieve your goals, please give us a call or shoot us an e-mail. We’re ready to help you tell your story! 251-445-5370