What is advertising substantiation? What does the FTC have to do with it? What constitutes acceptable substantiation in the eyes of the government? We’ll answer these questions and a few more.
The FTC Established Advertising Substantiation Rules
It’s true: advertising execs may be considered masters of prevarication. But in reality, advertisers are legally bound to the truth. In 1971, the Federal Trade Commission issued an edict outlawing “unfair or deceptive practices in commerce,” to safeguard consumers against false advertising.
You Must Be Able To “Back Up” Every Marketing Claim You Make
The Federal Trade Commission requires a “reasonable basis for all advertising claims before dissemination.” Meaning: it’s illegal to make assertions about a product, or service, without having the proper evidence to back it up. Moreover, one must possess all evidence of claims before advertisements hit the market.
What constitutes a ‘reasonable basis?’ Every case is different, but the primary acceptable sources are scientific studies and expert testimony.
6 Things The FTC Investigates In Advertising Substantiation Cases
There are six questions that the Federal Trade Commission weighs when investigating an advertising substantiation case:
- What is the product?
- What claim is being made?
- What are the benefits, to consumers, if the claim is true?
- What are the consequences, for consumers, if the claim is false?
- What is the effort and cost for developing substantiation for the claim?
- What do experts in the field consider a reasonable level of substantiation?
The Difference Between Explicit and Implied Advertising Claims
Advertising substantiation standards require that advertisers have a reasonable basis for all claims — both implied and stated. In others words, if a company does not say, “studies show that you will lose weight using our product,” but heavily imply weight loss benefits in marketing materials, said company is still responsible for providing evidence that its product results in weight loss. That’s why you often see ‘results are not typical’ at the bottom of diet product commercials. If an advertiser expressly states, “studies show our product works,” it better have the supporting evidence.
Famous Advertising Substantiation Case: Q-Ray Ionized Bracelets
There was a time, not so long ago, when you couldn’t turn the channel without seeing an infomercial for Q-Ray bracelets. Nowadays, however, you rarely hear about the ionized products.
Well, in 2006, a court deemed that Q-Ray couldn’t provide any reasonable evidence that their bracelets afforded instant or significant pain relief. In their advertisements, Q-Ray also claimed that scientific studies substantiated the effectiveness of their ionized bracelets; a comprehensive study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, however, proved this claim false.
As a result, Q-Ray had to stop running false ads and pay out millions of dollars.
Contact An Online Marketing Lawyer
Whether you’re an advertiser accused of false advertising or a consumer who feels victimized by deceptive marketing, it’s important to seek out legal advice from a seasoned advertising substantiation attorney. While the basic premise of the Act is straightforward, the minutia of the law is dense and frequently changing.