Many advertisers choose to use endorsements to add credibility to their claims. The use of endorsements, however, requires the advertiser to follow some basic advertising laws to ensure the endorsement is neither deceptive nor unsubstantiated. In general, the law requires endorsements to reflect the honest opinions or beliefs of the endorsing party, who must have in fact used the product or service. This article explores some of the basic rules the advertiser must follow when using a consumer endorsement, expert endorsement, celebrity endorsement, or organizational endorsement in the form of a seal-of-approval.
General Advertising Laws On Endorsements
In the United States, there are three general laws concerning the use of endorsements in advertising and marketing communications:
- The endorser may not leave the consumer with a false perception of the advertiserís products or services;
- The endorser may not make representations that could not be made directly by the advertiser itself;
- The endorsement must reflect the true and honest opinions and beliefs of the endorsing party.
In other words, the endorsement must be substantiated, must be the true opinion of the endorser both at the time it was made and while the ad is running, and it must not be deceptive.
Laws Affecting Consumer Endorsements
Consumer endorsements should come from actual users of the product or service. The endorsing statement must be consumerís honest opinions or findings of the consumer providing the endorsement, and the consumerís endorsement should be typical of the average consumers' experience with the product or service (generally over 50%). If the consumer endorserís experience is atypical, the advertiser must disclose this to the public. Likewise, if the consumer providing the endorsement is paid a fee, or otherwise receives remuneration for the endorsements, that fact must be disclosed. To ensure the consumer endorsement remains valid for the life of the ad, the advertiser should also periodically verify that the consumer continues to use the product and that his or her opinion remains unchanged.
Laws Affecting Expert Endorsements
Before using an endorsement provided by an expert, the advertiser must verify that the expert endorser possesses the relevant expertise claimed, and that the expert evaluation comes from a personal evaluation of the product using appropriate techniques. The evaluation must support the endorsement. Unlike consumer endorsements, however, if the experts is paid for his or her endorsement, no disclosure is required because the audience presumes that expert endorsers are paid.
Endorsements Made by Organizations
If you plan to have an organization make an endorsement, the endorsement must represent the collective judgment of the organization and the judgment reaching process should be fair. If the endorsement comes in the form of a seal-of-approval, the advertiser must comply with that organizationís standards for such an endorsement. The organization must be independent and legitimate, that is not an organization created by or on behalf of the advertiser for the purpose of promoting the advertiser's products. Finally, any material connections between the organization and the advertiser must be disclosed.
Use of Endorsements Outside the United States
Before using an endorsement in an advertising campaign running outside the United States, be certain to check with local counsel. In Europe for example, the laws affecting endorsements remains uncertain and different rules may apply.
If you are using an endorsement in an advertising campaign make certain the advertisement is truthful and substantiated. We also suggest that you contact an attorney familiar with the advertising laws where the ad will run, before the ad is viewed by the public.