The National Advertising Division (NAD) recently reviewed General Mills’ “Taste Off” advertising campaign, which included several taste preference claims. NAD determined that the television commercial at issue clearly identified the competing product that was the basis for the comparison and found that the claim was therefore substantiated by the taste test results. NAD recommended, however, that in other advertising the advertiser discontinue or modify its claim comparing Yoplait Greek blueberry to “the leading Chobani” to expressly state the basis for comparison.

In addition, the NAD recommended that General Mills advise consumers of their disclosure obligations when providing an incentive for social media posts. As part of a recent “taste off” program comparing Yoplait and Chobani yogurts, consumers could request and General Mills provided a “taste off kit” that included $4 gift cards to purchase containers of the yogurts. Consumers were asked to “tweet your #tasteoff” at the time of request, upon receipt of the kit, and in the kit instructions. The NAD found these incentives should have been clearly and conspicuously disclosed in subsequent posts by such consumers regarding the “#tasteoff” because the incentive provided to these consumers by General Mills could affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement. Notably, even though the gift cards were worth only $4, the NAD found this was “not such a small incentive as to render the connection immaterial in light of the level of consumer engagement present here.” The NAD recommended that General Mills instruct reviewers of their disclosure obligations when providing future incentives and discontinue re-posting reviews without necessary disclosures on social media or modify such re-postings to disclose any material connection.

Tip: The FTC Endorsement and Testimonial Guidelines require that, where there is a connection between an endorser and the seller of an advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of an endorsement, such a connection must be fully disclosed. Clear blogger/consumer review guidelines can spell out these obligations to consumer endorsers and engaged bloggers who are provided with free product or other incentives. See our recent post regarding Cole Haan’s “Wandering Sole” promotion for similar findings by the FTC in the context of a promotion.