e-Cigarette Advertising and Commercial Free Speech

In the words of former baseball player and philosopher Yogi Berra, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” California Senator Barbara Boxer (D) has called upon the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to expedite its study of the e-cigarette industry examining whether their advertising is encouraging children and youth to take up vaping.

Years of experience with other disfavored products leads us to expect that – no matter the results of the study – someone in Congress will likely call for bans or restrictions on e-cigarette advertising. While they will claim to be trying to protect youth, the actual limitations will likely be much broader and ban much advertising aimed at adult and legal consumers. Continue Reading →

FTC Takes Action on Native Advertising

In December, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission issued comprehensive guidelines on the affirmative disclosures needed when using Native Advertising. This includes illustrations of content that it considers to be advertising, as well as how to make “clear and prominent” disclosures that the content is advertising. (Native Advertising, A Guide for Business, FTC, December 2015, www.ftc.gov)

It is clear the FTC expects the ad industry to read, follow, and utilize the guidance. In fact, the Commission has just issued its first consent settlement since publishing its guidelines with Lord & Taylor for lack of transparency in its native advertising in a fashion magazine and on social media. Continue Reading →

New Ethical Principles for Protecting Patient Privacy in Marketing

In response to a recent article.

Our ad industry should take note of the ethical standards being advanced for protecting the privacy of patients when marketing client case studies. The National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) recognized successful case studies are one of the proven tools for encouraging addiction treatment, but require consideration to ensure patient privacy and to safeguard long-term recovery.

The NAATP’s revised code of ethics deal with the practice of misleading and deceptive marketing tactics, including those that could reveal a client’s identity. The principles include “hold sacred the shared value of our patients’ right to privacy.” A treatment provider may not reveal clients identities “in the form of photographic images, video images, media coverage, nor in marketing testimonials at any time during the client’s engagement in treatment.” Even after the treatment has concluded, treatment centers are urged to use caution in seeking permission to use testimonials, and some recommend against seeking and using testimonials from young clients not in a position to give informed consent to use their stories.

Certainly, those in our industry creating and disseminating marketing materials based ob patients’ successful medical treatment should adhere to these ethical standards. In fact, the federal government has rules and regulations protecting patients’ identities and health information.

The ethics behind the NAATP principles also applies to the need to protect consumer privacy in all marketing transactions. Our Institute’s Principles for Advertising Ethics include: “Advertisers should never compromise consumers’ personal privacy in marketing communications, and their choices as to whether to participate in providing their identity should be transparent and easily made.” (IAE Principle 6)

This ethical principle relates to marketing instances when we are using personal identifiers of the consume,r including photos, names and addresses. Also, consumers should be aware that their interests in products and services is being collected online and be given the choice of opting out.

A member of the NAATP ethics committee, Bob Ferguson, was quotes saying: “You want to apply the principles of common sense, fair play and the golden rule.” And as our Institute urges” “Do the Right Thing for the Consumer.”

About the Author

Wally Snyder

Wally Snyder has devoted his entire professional career to working on advertising development, regulation and ethics. He served as a trial lawyer and as Assistant Director for Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission before joining the American Advertising Federation where he served as president and CEO, from 1992–2008. Currently, he serves as Executive Director for the Institute for Advertising Ethics. Wally was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame® in 2009.

Advertising Ethics: Contradiction in Terms? NO!

Gene Ahner in his book on Business Ethics states, “Six Services are considered critical in a global economy: accounting, advertising, banking, insurance, law and management consulting.” For me the business and societal purpose of advertising is to provide consumers with the information needed, including competitive performance and pricing, to make our purchase decisions.  Advertising does provide the basis for product and service improvement.  After all, if you could not inform consumers about your product why would you want to improve it?

To achieve its critical role in the economy advertising must be conducted in an ethical manner.  My ethical standard is “Do the Right Thing for Consumers.”  Specifically, claims must be truthful with clear and conspicuous disclosures so they are not overstated; treat consumers “fairly” depending on the nature of the audience, e.g. children, and nature of the product, e.g. alcoholic beverages; and not contain content that stereotypes people, or contains violence, including against women.

Today’s advertising requiring ethical diligence include not blurring the line between paid ad content and editorial/news (“Native Advertising”), being transparent as to the conditions, e.g. payment, affecting consumer endorsements on blogs; protecting consumer privacy and providing choice regarding information collected online; and assuring that children understand that the messages directed to them are advertisements.

Consumers care about ethics and will reward and punish companies for how it is practiced.  Their ability to do so has been enhanced by online consumer information power.  Recent research shows that 95% of consumers have shared a negative experience; the good news is that 87% have shared a favorable one.

Perhaps, the greatest incentive for the practice of enhanced advertising ethics rests on the shoulders of our industry professionals.  Gene Ahner, who I quoted earlier, terms their ethical decisions “Ethics by Achievement,” ruled by their feelings, and hearts, not their brains.

When you know how important your profession is you should want to do your best ethically and professionally.

About the Author

Wally Snyder

Wally Snyder, Institute for
Advertising Ethics, AAF

Wally Snyder has devoted his entire professional career to working on advertising development, regulation and ethics. He served as a trial lawyer and as Assistant Director for Advertising Practices at the Federal Trade Commission before joining the American Advertising Federation where he served as president and CEO, from 1992–2008. Currently, he serves as Executive Director for the Institute for Advertising Ethics. Wally was inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame® in 2009.