BBB National Programs Archive

NAD Examines Advertising For ECC Online Apprentice Program, Following Challenge By Full Sail University

New York, NY – August 10, 2009 – The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Entertainment Career Connection, Inc. (ECC), which offers online entertainment media apprenticeship programs, discontinue certain advertising claims. However, NAD has determined that the advertisers provided reasonable support for certain claims.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, examined the advertising at the “Recording Connection” and “Film Connection” Websites, following a challenge by Full Sail University, an academic institution that offers degree programs in entertainment media at its campus in Winterpark, Fla.

Claims at issue in NAD’s inquiry included: 

  • Full Sail instructors are “ivory tower professors who haven’t been on a paid recording gig in years”
  • Full Sail students spend all of their time in a “crowded classroom”
  • Full Sail students practice on “pretend projects”
  • Full Sail’s career services only consist of help on resumes and a few lectures
  • Full Sail students must work for free for a while
  • Recording Connection and Film Connection are a “recording school” and “film school”
  • Career Connection offers a degree
  • Career Connection “schools” are “fully accredited”
  • Career Connection students learn on “real gigs” and on “real” sets or recording studios
  • Career Connection instructors are “working industry professionals”
  • Career Connection students will “make 10 to 100 connections” at Career Connection
  • The implied claim that all Full Sail students must work for free for a while

The ECC-operated Websites contain information about the program (such as a sample of the curriculum, cost, location, and time to complete the course), promote the apprenticeship concept by posting testimonials from previous students and compare ECC’s programs and services to the programs and services offered by traditional entertainment arts schools, including the challenger’s Full Sail University.  

For example, the top of the Film Connection home page states: “The Film Connection Film Institute, Your Film School Alternative … Your Classroom is a Real Film Set, Your Teacher a Real Film Maker.”  At the center of the page a large video window displays pictures of empty classrooms and a student struggling to read a text book as the video text states: “Do Film Schools Work? NO! Are classrooms the best way to learn filmmaking? NO! The Film Connection is the film school alternative … with us you learn one on one, from a professional, in the real world.  And save lots of money.  What are you waiting for?” 

To the right of the video is a two paragraph statement entitled, “Why Film Connection is Better.” The statement tells consumers that there are “two options” when considering film school: “1) Go to a traditional film school at a cost of $30,000 to $120,000 and sit in a classroom with a bunch of other out-of-work students; or 2) Go to The Film Connection Film Institute, your film school alternative, and learn the common sense way – one-on-one training from an industry professional on real film sets or in real film studios.”

The “Compare Schools” tab of both Websites contain four bar charts comparing the Tuition Costs, Students per Class, Number of Locations, and Length of Course for the ECC program (either Recording Connection or Film Connection) to four film or broadcast schools, including Full Sail.

As a preliminary matter, the advertiser volunteered to make modifications to its advertising that included the removal of all express references to Full Sail, the removal of all names of schools, including Full Sail, from a comparison bar chart, and the addition of language below the chart that would encourage prospective students to do their own research to compare ECC and other institutions. NAD noted that while it appreciated the advertiser’s voluntary efforts, the modifications did not resolve all of the issues raised in this case. 

Following its review of the evidence, NAD determined that the advertiser truthfully refers to its program as an accredited institution, and that the advertiser’s description of its programs and use of the word “school” in the context of the challenged advertisements is accurate, but recommended that the advertiser clearly and conspicuously disclose that ECC students receive a certificate of completion (rather than a degree) at the conclusion of each program.

NAD further determined that the claim, “You’ll Get Real World Experience, Working on Real Recording Gigs for Paying Clients, Not Practicing on Pretend Projects and Pro Bono Gigs,” is supported by the evidence in the record and does not falsely disparage the training opportunities offered by competing traditional schools.

However, NAD noted in its decision that when a challenge involves comparative claims that could potentially disparage the competing product or service mentioned, NAD must carefully balance a company’s right to truthfully tout the characteristics of its product in a comparative context against a competitor’s right not to have its product falsely denigrated.

NAD evaluated the comparative claims at issue by examining each claim in the context of the entire advertisement in which it appeared. Following its review of the evidence in the record, NAD determined that the following claims were not supported by the evidence in the record and therefore recommended that they be discontinued:

  • The claim that Full Sail instructors “have not been on a paid gig/ film shoot in years.”
  • The claim, “You’ll make between 10 and 100 connections in the Recording and Music business – those that do the hiring, not just get help on your resume and a few lectures.” 
  • The claim that graduates of traditional entertainment arts schools, including Full Sail, must first “work for free for a while.” 

In its advertiser’s statement, ECC said it would take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising and “remove any reference to the competitor’s teachers ‘having not worked on a paid gig in years.”