Written by guest blogger Alex Moore, BBB Advertising Review Consultant.
Better Business Bureau strives to be an industry leader for marketplace trust and ethics. BBB promotes truth and integrity in advertising and trade practices to protect the marketplace.
In 1912, BBB was founded by ethical business owners to review solicitations, advertisements and questionable marketing claims. BBB later created the Code of Advertising to help ensure a level playing field for businesses and an ethical marketplace for all. The Code is based on federal advertising regulations and best practices. It has been updated over the years—with its most recent revision in February 2015—to reflect current marketplace standards.
“BBB’s mission is to advance trust in the marketplace, and nothing is more fundamental to that mission than truth-in-advertising,” said Mary Power, president and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, in a February 2015 press release.
I joined BBB’s Advertising Review team about a year ago. Since then, I have assisted numerous businesses with their advertising questions and concerns, and I have challenged many to substantiate their claims.
An interaction that sticks out in my mind is one where I had contacted a company regarding a statement on its website that said, “Call your #1 dealer in Washington who has the best warranty in town!”
A claim made in an advertisement should be true and clear. A consumer should be able to take it at face value—he shouldn’t have to research and dig to find out whether it’s correct. And that’s where BBB enters the picture.
I asked the business owner to provide evidence of whom rated his company #1 and to add a disclaimer regarding his warranty. He responded angrily that in his 25+ years of being in business and using this exact phrase, he had never been questioned about it. Why is it a problem?
I explained in order for that particular statement to be completely transparent, the business needed to explain who rated it #1 and when, as well as give the details of the warranty. The problem was that information was nowhere to be found on the website. And without that information, the statement was unclear and potentially misleading to consumers. After much discussion, the business owner reluctantly agreed to modify his #1 claim and add a disclaimer about his warranty.
A couple months later, he contacted me unexpectedly and was overjoyed. He said a friend who owns his own business was recently fined a large amount of money and was experiencing many frustrations because of his advertising. The business owner thanked BBB for our services and for advising him about the changes he needed to make to his advertising. He felt we had spared him from going through the same situation as his friend.
BBB offers advertising review services free of charge to both BBB Accredited and non-accredited businesses, allowing them to excel in honest and ethical advertising. BBB also offers an avenue for consumers to present information to BBB that is potentially misleading or unethical.
Some of the services BBB proudly offers include:
- Review advertising copy before publication.
- Answer advertising questions, or refer you to sources that can help.
- Provide guidelines regarding online advertising.
- Send periodic advertising alerts about new trends in advertising, as well as educational materials promoting ethical standards.
- Mail the Code of Advertising brochure to any interested company.
BBB is ready to assist businesses with their advertising questions! For more information about the Advertising Review program, please contact AdReview@thebbb.org.