The FTC has released new guidance in a 40-page document to update and replace Dietary Supplements: An Advertising Guide for Industry, issued in 1998. The document provides guidance to help ensure that claims about the benefits and safety of health-related products are truthful, supported by science, and not misleading.
Google and Microsoft implemented health-product guidelines years ago. Some health-care companies cannot advertise products at all across these platforms, while others can only run ads for specific products in targeted regions based on local restrictions.
Similar to guidelines from Google and Microsoft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines are intended to prevent unfair and deceptive practices.
One interesting statement in the document cites that the “FTC law focuses not on the marketer’s intent, but on the consumer’s understanding, and that the “determination of what claims are made in marketing is consumer-driven. What a reasonable consumer understands as being the advertising or marketing materials to communicate about the product."
The FTC has filed more than 200 cases challenging false or misleading advertising claims for dietary supplements, foods, over-the-counter drugs and other health-related products since the guidance was publishes.
One major revision extends the guidance covering dietary supplements to all health-related products. The revised guide also reflects updates to other FTC guidance documents, including the guidance on endorsements and testimonials and the enforcement policy statement on homeopathic drugs, according to a statement by the FTC.
It also states new guidance around the amount and type of evidence needed to substantiate health-related claims, with greater emphasis on data from high-quality randomized and controlled human clinical trials.
Advertising in the document refers to traditional TV, radio, print, and internet ads, as well as a variety of marketing techniques and promotion methods that marketers utilize to increase consumer interest in, or demand for, products. It might include statements or depictions on websites, packaging and labeling, in promotional materials such as brochures or booklets, as well as in press releases.
In an attempt to avoid any misunderstanding, the FTC document suggests that marketers should not focus on individual phrases or statements, but rather consider each ad as a whole -- evaluating the “net impression” conveyed by all elements of the ad, including the text, product name, and any charts, graphs, and other images.
When an ad can be interpreted more than one way, the message needs to be written. The advertiser is responsible for substantiating each interpretation, according to the FTC.