The Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program, which is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, recently updated its procedures to narrow the types of challenges that it will accept. Originally founded in 2004 with the support of the Electronic Retailing Association, the program was created to address false advertising claims made in direct response advertising. When the Electronic Retailing Association abruptly ceased operations last June, the future of ERSP was uncertain.

ERSP will now no longer accept challenges related to advertising claims made in general direct response advertising. Under its new procedures, released earlier this month, ERSP will only accept challenges related to business and wealth education advertising and lead generation advertising. The program continues to be run by its long-time director, Peter C. Marinello, with policy oversight being provided by The Advertising Self-Regulatory Council.

ERSP defines "business and wealth education advertising" as "any commercial message, in any medium of dissemination, in which a company attempts to sell business and financial education, including, but not limited to, work at home opportunities and coaching and mentoring services."

ERSP defines "national lead generation advertising" as ”any commercial message that is disseminated in a substantial section of the United States or is a test market advertisement or advertising prepared for national campaigns in any medium of dissemination in which a company attempts to proactively attract and convert individuals who have indicated an interest in a company's product or services into prospective consumers, and use this information to create a pipeline to send targeted advertisements to the prospective consumers."

ERSP was widely considered to be highly effective at addressing issues in the direct marketing industry. It will be interesting to see whether the National Advertising Division increases its efforts in this space to fill the void.

One of the unique aspects of ERSP's procedures, sure to be missed by marketers, was ERSP's anonymous challenge procedures, which allowed competitors to challenge advertising on an anonymous basis.

In addition to his role at ERSP, Marinello also serves as director of the recently-launched Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council.