For more than two decades, the Federal Trade Commission has celebrated "National Consumer Protection Week." This week not only recognizes the work that the FTC, state and local regulators, and others do to protect consumers, it's an opportunity to educate consumers about important consumer protection issues that they face.

If you're looking for a way to help consumers -- and to help your brand at the same time -- here's a great place to start. Check out what consumers are saying about your advertising. Chances are you've got a database somewhere that categories consumer complaints received customer service by e-mail and by phone. You may also have reports that talk about what consumers are saying about your advertising online in social media and on consumer review sites. There's probably even some (physical) file cabinet somewhere that has stacks of complaints that the company has received by mail.

Understanding what your consumers are saying about your advertising is an incredible window into what the potential communication issues are. Are consumers misunderstanding a particular claim that you're making? Are consumers confused about an offer? Are consumers seeing the disclaimers you're including? Are you advertising products that are consistently not available in-store? Are products not being delivered in the timeframe advertised?

Every day, advertisers make judgment calls about their advertising, not knowing for sure exactly what consumer take-away will be. Once the advertising has been released, however, these consumer complaints give you tremendous insight into what the likely reasonable take-away is.

Use your consumer complaints as a roadmap to the issues that people are having with your advertising. If you're getting a lot of consumer complaints about an issue, you can expect that some of those consumers are complaining to the FTC or a state or local regulator. By tidying up the issues that consumers are identifying, you can prevent them from becoming bigger problems down the road.

{ "As the nation's primary consumer protection agency, we take pride in working with our partners and providing free educational resources to remind consumers of their rights. We encourage informed consumers to share their knowledge and help others avoid scams" -- FTC Chairman Joe Simons