BBB has been advocating for truthful advertising since 1917, which means that the organization has seen many changes in advertising practices over the years. The public now regularly encounters ads that make claims about how products affect the environment, how products are made, and how to compare prices of different items.
How should advertisers make sure consumers understand their ads– and how should consumers interpret the ads they see?
BBB’s Code of Advertising is designed to clear up all this confusion. We’ve recently updated the code to more clearly address these contemporary trends in advertising– here are some of the changes we’ve made.
The updated Code of Advertising specifies that ads that make claims about environmental benefits should be backed up with solid evidence and should be specific about how the product is beneficial to the environment. This should disincentivize “greenwashing” and help consumers to understand their impact on the environment more clearly.
Similarly, advertising claims that products are “Made in the USA” or “Made in Canada” are also required to be precise and to be backed up by evidence.
The updated code also addresses the trend of hiring celebrities to endorse products on social media. The new Code specifies that these new kinds of ads have to genuinely represent endorsers’ opinions, just like any other endorsement.
Another big change is that advertisers can now make claims of savings “up to” a certain percentage off the original price without always specifying the range of savings. Consumers today are savvy enough to understand that the phrase “up to 40 percent off,” for example, will mean that there is a range of discounts.
In order to prevent consumers from being misled, the Code specifies that 10 percent or more of the items on sale be discounted at the highest rate in the range. After all, if 100 items are on sale at 20 percent off and one item is on sale at 40 percent off, “up to 40 percent off” wouldn’t be an accurate way to represent the discount.
Overall, these changes should help businesses and consumers to communicate more clearly– which is always BBB’s goal.