The advertising industry’s self-regulatory arm, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”), recently reviewed certain advertising messages made by Vapore, LLC. In both television and internet advertising, Vapore claimed that its “MyPurMist” handheld steam inhaler had “more 5-star reviews than any other steam inhaler.” In connection with the 5-star review message, Vapore focused on certain attributes of the inhaler, including that it was handheld, versatile, and that it delivered fast and effective relief.

Vapore asserted that its advertising message was substantiated by capturing rating of different retailer websites on a single day in March 2016. Its data included 85 percent of the marketplace for steam inhalers. NAD was satisfied with the data as representative of the marketplace for inhalers, and was satisfied that the data supplied was from verified purchasers of MyPurMist.

That said, NAD was concerned that the advertiser did not account for the potential for double counting of reviews. Specifically, NAD noted that consumers were able to post reviews on the advertiser’s website, and on a retailer’s website. NAD was also troubled by the fact that Vapore relied on reviews which were dated. NAD found that some of the reviews dated back five years ago, while other reviews were nearly two years old. Finally, NAD took issue with the fact that consumers who left 5-star ratings did not communicate why such a rating was given. Although Vapore made the 5-star rating message in connection with specific attributes discussed above, NAD determined that consumers may have given MyPurMist a 5-star rating for reasons other than the advertised attributes. Accordingly, NAD recommended that Vapore discontinue its unqualified 5-star rating claim.

Takeaway: Advertisers that wish to rely on consumer ratings should ensure that the ratings collected are not double counted, are from recent consumer ratings, and are directly related to the attributes communicated in the advertisement.