There was nothing extraordinary about the overblown marketing claims that Herbal Groups made about its prostate-health remedy Prostalex Plus. The National Advertising Division (NAD), the ad industry's self-regulatory body, blasted those unsubstantiated claims and testimonials just as they would any others that pledged users would "regain ... youthful prostate function" and promised to "stop your constant need to urinate" without the science to support the assertions.
But the NAD, an investigative unit of the National Advertising Review Council (NARC), found new, more disturbing problems with Herbal Groups' promotions.
The FTC's two-pronged approach focuses on how advertisers clarify and support testimonials--both online and through traditional media--while also targeting material connections between companies and the bloggers who write about and recommend their products.
Industry groups argue the guidelines place an undue burden on advertisers. In one set of comments jointly submitted by groups including the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, they said the proposed revisions represent "a drastic change in ... policy that would result in ... increased costs for marketers, and impede the use of even truthful consumer testimonials."
The proposed guidelines also target testimonials in ads--both online and off. Under the proposed guides, companies must support any testimonial claim, such as total weight lost from using a diet product, with proof that it is the typical result. If the testimonial does not highlight a typical result, the age-old catchphrase, "Results not typical," would no longer be enough to preclude false advertising claims. Advertisers also would have to clearly display what the typical result actually is.