In an effort to modernize, the Better Business Bureau has updated the BBB Code of Advertising for the first time since the 1970s “to reflect the many new ways advertisers reach consumers via websites, social media, texting and other channels.”
Applicable to all advertisers in North America, the modernized Code maintains the same central tenet that “the primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser,” and that advertisers “should be prepared to substantiate any objective claims or offers made before publication or broadcast.”
While the truth-in-advertising principles remain the same, the Code now deals with 21st-century ad mediums like social media (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) and texting.
Importantly, the Code was updated to include language for testimonials and endorsements that aligns the organization with the Federal Trade Commission’s stance as found in the agency’s Guides on Testimonials and Endorsements.
In addition, the self-regulatory organization changed its position on “up to” savings claims. “The most noticeable change to the Code is the elimination of the requirement that advertisers include a range of savings whenever an ‘up to’ price savings claim is made (for instance, up to 40%); the Code retains the requirement that at least 10% of the class of items identified in the ad must be offered at 40% off.”
Closeout and liquidation sales, duration of sales periods, rebate promotions, and the line between puffery and objective superlative claims were also addressed. Puffery “includes general claims of superiority over comparable products that are so vague that it can be understood as nothing more than a mere expression of opinion,” the Code states.
New additions for advertisers to consider include: provisions on environmental benefit claims, continuity programs, and “Made in USA” and “Product of Canada” claims. The product or product line must be made “all or virtually all” in the United States, the BBB said, although qualified claims (such as “60% U.S. content”) are appropriate.
“The goal is to make industry self-regulation track with regulatory approaches to encourage the most honest and ethical marketing by businesses,” the BBB added.
To read the updated BBB Code of Advertising, click here.
Why it matters: “The core message of the Code is unchanged, but this comprehensive update covers the many new channels businesses have to reach potential customers,” explained BBB president and CEO Mary E. Power. Advertisers would be well served to review the code changes to ensure compliance going forward, although the self-regulatory organization noted that its positions largely track the FTC’s stance on issues ranging from environmental claims to endorsements and testimonials to “Made in USA” claims.