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).
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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FTC Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya to Keynote NAD 2022, Annual Conference of BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division
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BBB National Programs Announces 85 Distinguished Panel Pool Members for National Advertising Review Board and New Vice Chair
McLean, VA – January 11, 2022 – BBB National Programs today announced the 85 panel pool members of the 2022 National Advertising Review Board, as well as its 2022 vice chair, Heather Hippsley, who retired in 2020 as Deputy General Counsel of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) where, among many senior roles over...
Pursuing Best Practices For Representation In Advertising
It is estimated that, on average, consumers are presented with up to 10,000 discrete advertisements a day. As this number continues to grow, so too do people’s expectations of representation in advertising. As Facebook IQ described in a recent report on diversity and inclusion in online advertising, “People around the world are demanding to see themselves better represented in advertising. They want to see the true diversity of their communities depicted more often—and more accurately—across many areas, including race, gender, sexual orientation and people with disabilities.”
Unfortunately, advertising collectively is still falling short, and consumer perceptions reflect that. According to Facebook IQ's findings, 54% of consumers do not feel fully represented in online ads. The Alliance for Inclusive and Multicultural Marketing (AIMM) confirmed this lacking consumer perception in its review of Super Bowl ads: They found 45% of ads had casts that represented diverse and inclusive audiences in the 2021 game telecast. This year, though the official data is not yet analyzed, my observation is that there was an improvement in representation across this year’s Super Bowl commercials.
Why answer this call from consumers? As the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) put it, the use of harmful stereotypes can "restrict the choices, aspirations, and opportunities of children, young people, and adults, and these stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising." Guy Parker, chief executive of ASA, also noted, "Put simply, we found that some portrayals in ads can, over time, play a part in limiting people’s potential.
The argument for eliminating harmful representations and increasing positive representations in advertising goes beyond advertising ethics: Many believe that there is a clear business case for better representation. For example, Microsoft, in their study on the effects of inclusion in advertising on Gen-Z specifically, found that 70% of Gen-Z consumers are more trusting of brands that represent diversity in ads, and 49% have stopped purchasing from a brand that did not represent their values.
What is being done to address the lack of representation?
Several countries have developed self-regulatory standards that prohibit certain kinds of discrimination in advertising. In addition to standards, many countries are conducting critical research on the harms that unfavorable representations of race and ethnicity can bring about.
The ASA, for example, just released a research report called "Tackling Harmful Racial and Ethnic Stereotyping in Advertising." In addition to defining three broad potential harms that can arise from these problematic portrayals, the report identifies five categories of racial and ethnic stereotypes for advertisers to be aware of and provides helpful guidance to advertisers on how to steer clear of unintentional harm or offense through their depictions of race and ethnicity.
While U.S. law prohibits misleading advertising, the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects free speech (among other important and fundamental rights), meaning while an advertisement cannot be prohibited for being offensive, thoughtful advertising decision-makers will remove an ad from the marketplace for being misleading. There is growing recognition that adverse stereotypes can be harmful and misleading; they can contribute to bias and create harmful effects on the stigmatized populations who feel devalued.
AIMM has been working to help the advertising industry make good on its public commitments to diversity through the creation of tools such as the Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM), which examines the impact and effectiveness of cultural insights in ads. Industry-wide movements—like the #SeeAll Campaign, which pushes for more accurate representation of multicultural segments in a greater number of ads—are also having an impact. Beyond these efforts that encourage positive behavior, other organizations, including the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) within my organization, are working to deter problematic behavior in the uniquely vulnerable children’s space and other specific focus areas. CARU recently released new guidelines for responsible advertising, including one that holds companies accountable for negative social stereotyping, prejudice, or discrimination in child-directed advertising.
Given the growing understanding of how stereotypes harm consumers, should independent industry self-regulatory programs expand this work to cover all national advertising?
I have seen a shift in expectations for businesses by consumers on this topic in recent years, and this shift suggests the need for a similar shift in the way that businesses act.
For instance, when it comes to getting representation right in advertising, responsible businesses should incorporate practices such as adding prompts during brainstorming sessions to check for bias and help make sure that inclusive ideas are a part of each stage of the process.
In addition, I suggest businesses take advantage of the various tools available to have their ads reviewed before they go live. These reviews help save time and money by assessing the ad's level of representation and diversity before you get to the final cut. Bringing in an outside perspective can be incredibly helpful.
Prioritizing diversity and inclusion and pursuing best practices for representation in advertising is dependent on building good habits. When building those habits internally, never forget that sometimes the best measure can come from collecting consumer feedback on your efforts.
Originally published in Forbes.
National Advertising Review Board Finds Sanofi’s “#1 Doctor Recommended Ingredient” Claims for Zantac 360° Unsubstantiated
New York, NY – November 2, 2022 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising law body of BBB National Programs, recommended that Sanofi Consumer Healthcare not use claims that Zantac 360° contains, or that famotidine is, “the #1 Doctor Recommended ingredient” or “the #1 Doctor...
NARB Finds Glee Gum’s “Plant-Based,” “Made with Chicle,” “Natural,” Claims Supported; Recommends Discontinuance of “Plastic Free” Claims
New York, NY – October 20, 2022 – A panel of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB), the appellate advertising decision body of BBB National Programs, has determined that Mazee, LLC has reasonable support for claims that its Glee Gum is “plant-based,” “made with chicle,” and “natural.” However, the...
National Advertising Division Finds Certain HEPA Claims for Shark Air Purifiers Supported; SharkNinja Appeals Recommendation to Modify or Discontinue Others
New York, NY – November 22, 2022 – In a challenge brought by Dyson, Inc., the National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that SharkNinja Operating LLC provided a reasonable basis for claims that its Shark Air Purifier 4 meets or even exceeds HEPA standards but recommended that...
NAD Finds Certain Environmental Benefit Claims for ABA’s “Every Bottle Back” Initiative Supported; ABA Appeals Recommendation to Modify Other Claims
New York, NY – November 22, 2022 – The National Advertising Division (NAD) determined that the American Beverage Association (ABA) provided a reasonable basis for certain environmental benefit claims related to its Every Bottle Back program, designed to encourage and increase beverage...
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