TESTIMONIALS AND ENDORSEMENTS
Testimonials and endorsements in any media (including but not limited to such comments on a company’s website and via social networking sites, online message boards, blogging and “word-of-mouth” marketing) should be used only if they:
- Are authorized by the person quoted;
- Are accurate, genuine and related to the experience of the person giving them, both at the time made and at the time of the promotion, and disclose the expertise of the endorser in terms of whether he or she is an expert for the purposes of the advertisement or simply a consumer endorser;
- Are not taken out of context so as to distort the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product or service;
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose any material connections between the endorser and marketer, which the consumer would not expect. A material connection refers to a connection between the endorser and marketer that materially affects the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such as payments or free products, or an employer/employee relationship; and
- Clearly and conspicuously disclose the generally expected, or typical, results/performance of the advertised products or services, if the claims made are not typical of what a user could expect under normal circumstances.
A marketer should be able to provide prior and adequate substantiation, including providing reliable scientific evidence, as necessary, for any claims of efficacy (i.e. whether the product/service will actually do what the marketer says it will do, typicality (i.e. whether the typical consumer will have an experience like that of the endorser), and environmental benefit. The marketer should also be able to substantiate that the endorser was a bona fide user of the product at the time of the endorsement.
Additionally, marketers should ensure that their celebrity endorsers disclose their relationships with marketers when making endorsements outside the context of traditional advertisements, such as on talk shows or in social media, and they should not knowingly make statements that are false or unsubstantiated.
For purposes of this article, the terms “testimonial” and “endorsement” refer to an advertising or marketing message made in any channel that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsor of the message, even if the views expressed by that party are identical to those of the sponsor. Testimonials and endorsements can be verbal statements, demonstrations, or depictions of the name, signature, likeness or other identifying personal characteristics of an individual or the name or seal of an organization.