NARB ProgramBackgrounds

National Advertising Review Board

The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) is the appellate body for the U.S. system of advertising industry self-regulation. Five-member NARB panels hear cases appealing an NAD or CARU decision and provide independent industry peer review, ensuring truthfulness and accuracy in national advertising and helping promote voluntary compliance of its decisions—a key pillar of industry self-regulation.

Program Impact

NARB, established in 1971 as a fair and impartial appellate body, reviews appealed NAD or CARU decisions. Nominated by various leading organizations in the advertising industry, NARB members are selected for their stature and experience in their fields. 

 

 

Truth & Transparency

When 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.

Compliance

After 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-Compliance

In 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).
 

For the last 50 years in the advertising industry, companies have held each other to a higher standard. In response to the pressures and criticisms of consumerism that had mounted during the previous decade, in 1971 the advertising industry established the National Advertising Division (NAD) and National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the U.S. mechanism of independent self-regulation that has stood the test of time and technological innovation.

 

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Guidelines & Procedures


Any advertiser or challenger has the right to appeal NAD’s decision to NARB. An advertiser has an automatic right of appeal. A challenger must request permission to appeal from the NARB chair and explain why it believes there is a substantial likelihood NARB would come to a different conclusion on a case than NAD. 

 

News & Blog

Press Release

BBB National Programs National Advertising Division Launches Expedited Fast-Track SWIFT Lane Designed to Address Misleading Advertising Disclosures

New York, NY – November 9, 2021 – Mindful of recent Federal Trade Commission (FTC) actions, BBB National Programs today announced a new, streamlined lane of the expedited Fast-Track SWIFT challenge submission process, one designed specifically to address the prominence and sufficiency of...

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Press Release

Media Advisory: FTC Commissioner Rebecca Slaughter to Keynote National Advertising Division “Future of Ad Law” 2021 Annual Conference

New York, NY – September 21, 2021 – In its 50th anniversary year, the National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs will host the NAD 2021 Annual Conference virtually next week, running Wednesday, September 29 through Friday, October 1. Members of the media are invited to cover NAD 2021 with...

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Misleading Endorsements and Testimonials May Lead to Civil Penalties

Oct 28, 2021, 09:00 AM by Laura Brett, Vice President, National Advertising Division, BBB National Programs
The FTC recently sent a Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Deceptive or Unfair Conduct around Endorsements and Testimonials, informing 700 companies that the misleading use of endorsements could lead to civil penalties. This action demonstrated the FTC’s continued interest in challenging the deceptive or misleading use of endorsements or testimonials, making it the perfect time to review how to avoid some common pitfalls when using them in advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is sometimes referred to as “the cop on the beat” for misleading advertising. So when the agency recently sent a Notice of Penalty Offenses Concerning Deceptive or Unfair Conduct around Endorsements and Testimonials, informing 700 companies that the misleading use of endorsements could lead to civil penalties, it drew our attention.

Upon closer review, the Notice demonstrates the FTC’s continued interest in challenging the deceptive or misleading use of endorsements or testimonials, making it the perfect time to review how to avoid some common pitfalls when using them in advertising.   

 

Consumer Reviews   

When marketing a new product, many brands work quickly to build a robust collection of product reviews. Providing incentives to consumers for reviewing a product may entice consumers to try the product, a win-win that boosts both current sales and, with positive reviews, subsequent sales. But brands that engage in a strategy to incentivize consumers to try their product and review it should take steps to stay on the right side of FTC guidance. 

Both truth and transparency should be top of mind for brands collecting reviews.  

First, guard against using reviews that do not meet FTC standards for truth. As the FTC Notice cautioned: 

  • Reviews must reflect the honest opinion of the reviewer based on the reviewer’s use of the product. 
  • The reviewer’s experience should represent consumers’ typical experience with the product.
  • Any product claims in reviews used as endorsements must be truthful. (See NAD case #6992 PerSe Beauty, Inc.)

 

When collecting reviews, consider these additional safeguards to stay on the right side of truth-in-advertising principles:

 

To remain transparent, advertisers must disclose any connection between a reviewer and the product reviewed that the consumer would otherwise not expect. 

  • If an incentive was provided for a review, the content of the review could be influenced by the incentive, so any incentive offered in exchange for a review of the product should be disclosed. (See NAD cases #6365 Pyle Audio, Inc.; #6042 Fit Products, LLC; #5889 The Scotts Company, LLC; #5645 eSalon)
  • Avoid relying exclusively on the reviewers themselves to disclose incentives. Set up a system to verify that disclosures for incentivized reviews appear when reviews are posted. (See NAD case #5889 The Scotts Company, LLC)
  • Because reviews can be shared on various websites and social platforms, ensure that any disclosure about the incentive for the review “travels” with the relevant review. (See NAD case #5889 The Scotts Company, LLC)

 

Endorsements on Product Review Sites

Consumers often turn to product review sites before making a purchase and, based on the FTC’s recent action, such sites may see additional FTC scrutiny in the future. If a website ranks or rates products and has a material connection to the reviewed products, that website is essentially playing the role of an expert endorser. The FTC’s endorsement guides advise that an expert endorser or reviewer must exercise their “expertise in evaluating product features or characteristics with respect to which he or she is expert, and which are relevant to an ordinary consumer’s use of or experience with the product.” 

The key is to avoid working with review sites that do not rate products based on expertise or sites that are otherwise not independent. A few pitfalls arise when review sites are not what they appear to be.   

  • Material connections must be disclosed. If a rating or review site has a relationship with the company that makes or sells a product it is reviewing (such as getting a commission on sales), the FTC endorsement guides make clear that this material connection requires disclosure. (See NAD cases  #5970 Jumpsport, Inc.; #6369 Amerisleep, LLC)
  • Endorsements should represent the honest experience, views, or opinions of the endorser. Often rating websites will disclose a connection with the product they are reviewing by stating, “many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us; however, this does not influence our evaluations.” Even when material connections are disclosed, ratings that consistently give high marks to those products with which the review site has a partnership, rather than an honest evaluation of the product, may face scrutiny as not reflecting the review site’s judgment or experience. (See NAD case #6341 Choice Home Warranty)
  • Ratings or rankings comparing products must be based upon the expert evaluation of the product and competing products. Review sites comparing products convey the message that the site has experience and expertise in the products reviewed and rated. It is misleading to consumers if the site does not have expertise in evaluating the products or if the site’s rating is not based on that expertise. If product ratings or rankings are not based on expertise but upon material connections to products reviewed, consumers are again misled. (See NAD cases #6341 Choice Home Warranty; #6911 Safe Catch, Inc.; and NARB Panel #216 Reckitt Benckiser LLC)

 

The FTC’s “Penalty Offense Notice” sends a clear message to the advertising community: the FTC will be looking carefully at the use of endorsements and testimonials in the year ahead. Following the FTC’s rules of the road is more important now than ever before.  

The NAD cases linked above provide additional real-world guidance on the use of consumer reviews and product reviews in advertising. Additionally, back in June we provided our 5 tips for successfully using consumer reviews in your advertising.

 

 

 

Decisions

Decision

National Advertising Review Board Recommends Johnson & Johnson Discontinue “#1 Dermatologist Recommended Skincare Brand” Claim for Neutrogena

New York, NY – October 20, 2021 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has recommended that Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc. (JJCI) discontinue the claim that its Neutrogena brand is the “#1 Dermatologist Recommended Skincare Brand.” 

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Decision

National Advertising Review Board Finds Certain AT&T Comparative Advertising Claims Supported; Recommends Discontinuation or Modification of Others

New York, NY – October 14, 2021 – The National Advertising Review Board (NARB) has determined that AT&T Services, Inc. properly supported certain comparative advertising claims for its fiber-optic internet service in one commercial and one internet video advertisement. However, it...

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Decision

National Advertising Division Finds Certain Bausch + Lomb Claims for INFUSE Contact Lenses Supported; Advertiser Appeals Other Findings

New York, NY – December 1, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that Bausch Health provided a reasonable basis for certain INFUSE silicone hydrogel (SiHy) daily contact lens and lens property claims. 

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Decision

National Advertising Division Recommends Byte Disclose Incentivized Reviews for Aligner Products

New York, NY – November 30, 2021 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) of BBB National Programs recommended that Straight Smile, LLC (Byte) take reasonable measures to provide clear and conspicuous disclosures informing consumers that the review was incentivized for each incentivized review on its website and on BestCompany.com, and...

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