In an effort to keep pace with new marketing platforms, the Better Business Bureau has announced significant changes to its Code of Advertising to address the revolutionary changes wrought by social media and other digital channels when it comes to truth-in-advertising practices.
As the stated mission of the BBB is to promote trust in marketplace activities, the Bureau believes that revamping parameters will help consumers and businesses understand the differences between truthful and deceptive practices.
According to the president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus Mary E. Power, “…nothing is more fundamental to that mission than truth-in-advertising…”
In order to ensure honest and ethical marketing, and with a goal of helping self-regulation parallel expectations from governing agencies, these modifications and changes are designed to emphasize that “the primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser,” and that advertisers must be able “…to substantiate any objective claims or offers made before publication or broadcast.”
Among the notable updates and changes to the Code are:
- How testimonials are deployed and used in social media;
- Eliminating the requirement that advertisers include a range of savings whenever an “up to” price savings claim is made (however, the Code retains other requirements in this area);
- Closeout and liquidation sales requirements;
- The duration of sale periods, rebate promotions: and
- Distinguishing between puffery and objective superlative claims.
There are new additions to the Code as well, including
- Claims regarding environmental benefits;
- “Made in USA” claims; and
- Programs that are offered that include free and low-cost merchandise.
The purpose of updating the Code of Advertising is not to alter its central message but to provide guidelines and bring accountability to businesses as they explore the potential of digital marketing in reaching new and existing customers.
Better Business Bureau. “New BBB Advertising Standards Reflect 21st Century Advertising in Traditional and New Media,” February 12, 2015.