National Small Business Week: What you shouldn’t do in advertising


Advertising is a very powerful medium, and the more truthful it is, the better it is for both consumers and businesses.

Consumers are exposed to as many as 3,000-5,000 advertising messages DAILY through TV, radio, the internet, billboards, magazines, mobile phones, text messages, newspapers, etc.

You never want to hook a potential customer by lying to them about your business or product. Why? Consumers want to feel they can trust a company and will more likely visit your business again if you are up front. With that being said, here’s a look at what you shouldn’t do when advertising your business:

  • Using the word “sale” correctly. The word “sale” may be used in advertising only if there a big reduction from the advertiser’s usual and customary price of the merchandise offered and the sale is for a limited period of time. If the sale is more than thirty days, you should be prepared to substantiate that the offering is indeed a valid reduction and has not become their regular price.Time limit sales should be critically observered. For example, merchandise offered in a “one-day sale,” “three-day sale,” “this week only,” sale should be taken off “sale” and be put back to the regular price immediately following expiration of the stated time.
  • What is actually free?. Use the word “free” when you are offering an unconditional gift. However, if to receive this “free”product or service you must first purchase another item, then you may have other things to consider. This includes clearly disclosing that the free item comes with the purchase of another item and not increasing the normal price of a product or service to be purchased nor reduced its quantity or quality.
  • How to use fine print or an asterisk. An asterisk may be used to impart additional information about a word or term which is not in itself inherently deceptive. The asterisk or other reference symbol should not be used as a means of contradicting or substantially changing the meaning of any advertising statement. Information referenced by asterisks should be clearly and prominently disclosed.
  • Defining what bait and switch is. A “Bait” offer is an alluring but insincere offer to sell a product or service which the advertiser does not intend to sell. The purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise or service, in order to sell something else, usually at a higher price or on a basis more advantageous to the advertiser. An advertisement shouldn’t be published unless it is a bona fide offer to sell the advertised merchandise or service.