Truth & TransparencyWhen a competitor’s advertising harms consumer trust or threatens a company’s reputation and market share, the advertising self-regulatory system creates a level-playing field for business and helps ensure consumers receive truthful and accurate advertising.
ComplianceAfter a decision, NARB or the challenger can check in on whether the advertiser has made appropriate modifications to its advertising and has 10 days to respond. The case is closed if there is a good faith effort to bring their advertising into compliance.
Non-ComplianceIn cases of lack of good faith efforts to modify or discontinue advertising as a result of a NARB decision, NARB will refer the case to an appropriate government agency, usually the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Guidelines & Procedures
News & Blog
BBB National Programs Announces 85 Distinguished Members of 2021 National Advertising Review Board Panel
BBB National Programs Partners with Facebook to Strengthen Truth-in-Advertising Enforcement on the Social Network's U.S. Platform
New York, NY – December 2, 2020 – Taking an important step to advance the effectiveness of its quick and efficient self-regulatory programs, BBB National Programs today announced a new National Advertising Division (NAD) partnership with Facebook.
Six Tips to Properly Advertise Your Health and Wellness Claims
Now more than ever consumers are paying attention to their health and wellness. Not surprisingly, many businesses see this as an opportunity to promote the health and wellness benefits of their products.
In 2020, BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD) saw a 50% increase in competitor challenges to health-related advertising. And of those cases opened through NAD’s marketplace monitoring, more than a third were for the truth and accuracy of health-related claims. At the federal level, the FTC and FDA sent hundreds of warning letters to—and sued several—companies that crossed the line and made express or implied claims that their products could prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
Although all businesses can, of course, promote and advertise the benefits and unique features of their products, all messages conveyed by the advertising must be supported by a reasonable basis. Failure to adequately support a health or wellness claim can quickly get a business into trouble, resulting in scrutiny from law enforcement or a challenge from a competitor in an independent industry self-regulation forum such as NAD.
Recently, NAD and Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP presented a webinar event providing guidance on how to stay out of trouble when making health and wellness claims. Below we share six of the key takeaways discussed.
1. You must have a reasonable basis for all messages reasonably conveyed by your ads.
It is not enough to support the claim that is expressly being made in your ads. Consumers may take away additional messages based on the context of the ad. Both express and implied claims must be supported. This is true even if you did not intend to convey those implied messages.
When considering what implied claims consumers may take away from your ads, pay attention to the context of the entire ad. For example, a claim that a product boosts the immune system in a context that reminds consumers of the pandemic and the threat it poses to their health conveys a very different message than an immunity boosting claim made in isolation.
2. General claims that cross over into health or disease claims must be substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
Pay particular attention to whether you are communicating a health or disease prevention benefit. All claims must be substantiated by a reasonable basis, but for health and disease claims that means the claim needs competent and reliable scientific evidence as substantiation. Randomized, placebo-controlled studies on human beings that reach statistical significance and yield clinically meaningful results are the most reliable evidence that a product will provide a claimed health benefit and almost always will be needed for claims that a product can cure, mitigate, or treat a disease.
Regardless, you will need studies or tests conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures that yield accurate and reliable results, and which experts in the relevant area agree are sufficient to support the claim. The bar for supporting a health-related claim is high because consumers rely on such claims to make important decisions that impact their health.
3. If your scientific support is limited, qualify your claim accordingly.
If the scientific evidence you have is reliable but does not quite rise to the level of being able to support a health claim, you may still be able to use it, provided you disclose the limitations of the evidence or qualify the claim to fit the evidence. Be careful though, because the evidence you are relying on must still be reliable, and the disclosure of the limitations must be clear, conspicuous, and not contradict the claim.
For example, if you conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled study on a subset of the population that can benefit from your product, you might still be able to make the claim if you specify that subset in your claim. However, you will need to be careful to make sure that your ad does not impliedly convey the message that your product can provide that benefit to a wider population unless you have other reliable evidence that it does.
4. Ensure your claims are substantiated. Adherence to regulatory guidelines is only half the battle.
Many products in the health and wellness space are subject to specific regulations by the FDA, EPA, or another federal regulatory body. Complying with regulatory requirements, however, is only the first step. You must still ensure that your advertising claims, including those on the product label and packaging, are truthful and accurate.
Conversely, if your product is not regulated, that does not mean you have free rein—all advertising must be truthful and not misleading.
5. When highlighting a product’s unique features, ensure comparative express or implied claims are truthful and substantiated.
You are free to highlight the unique features of your product. But if you do so in a way that implies a health or wellness benefit, then all the requirements of substantiating a health claim, as discussed above, still apply. Similarly, if in promoting the features of your product you convey a message that your product is superior, or as good as, other products, those comparative claims must be substantiated as well (typically through head-to-head comparison testing).
6. Tests to substantiate a claim must be conducted under consumer-relevant conditions.
Products should be tested in the way consumers use the product. For example, testing a product in a petri dish is unlikely to be sufficient to evaluate a product, whether it is for a device’s germ-killing properties or a pill or potion’s effect on the body since a petri dish does not simulate actual use conditions.
These rules apply to all advertising. Following these rules should keep your advertising off the radar of the FTC and your competitors. If your competitors are not following these rules, consider bringing a challenge to BBB National Programs’ NAD. It can be effective at leveling the playing field and promoting truthful advertising practices across an industry.
National Advertising Review Board Recommends doTERRA Discontinue Certain Health Benefit and “Therapeutic Grade” Essential Oil Claims
New York, NY – March 31, 2021 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that doTERRA International, LLC discontinue a “Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade” claim as well as any use of the term “therapeutic grade” to describe doTERRA’s products.
NARB Recommends AT&T Disclose Material Connections When Citing Testing Company Data, Modify “Building 5G on America’s Best Network” Claim
A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that AT&T Services, Inc. clearly and conspicuously disclose its material connection to Global Wireless Solutions (GWS) when making a “Best Network” claim that is based on GWS testing. The NARB panel also recommended that...
National Advertising Division Recommends Natural Diamond Council Discontinue Certain Advertising Claims on Benefits of Mined Versus Man-Made Diamonds
New York, NY – April 22, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) recommended that the Natural Diamond Council discontinue certain advertising claims comparing mined diamonds with man-made diamonds, including the carbon emissions associated with diamond mining compared with diamond...
NAD Finds Certain Zarbee’s Claims Clearly Identify Honey as The Source of the Cough Soothing Benefit in its Cough Products; Recommends Modification of Others
New York, NY – April 15, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that certain advertising claims made by Zarbee’s, Inc. for its cough products sufficiently identify that honey is the source of the cough soothing benefit and would not reasonably mislead consumers...