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How Much Toilet Paper Must Be 'Left Behind' on a Cartoon Bear's Butt and Other Key Advertising Rules

Advertising Age has an interesting article here (via Consumerist) describing how advertising "law" is created, in part, by decisions of the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, a self-regulating body established in 1971 to deal with false or misleading advertising claims. The NAD handled over a hundred cases last year, some following complaints by competitors and others on its own initiative. Ad Age says that more than 90 percent of advertisers comply with NAD decisions because failure to do so can result in government action.

Through its cases, the NAD has established a number of key rules. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

  • "Re-enactments" must depict real performance. In a 1997 case involving window manufacturer Andersen Corp., the NAD ruled that re-enactments of extraordinary consumer experiences may be dramatized, but still must accurately portray how the product performed under the circumstances. So, Ad Age summarizes, "your re-enactment can still misrepresent the hotness of the housewife in the scenario, just not the product she uses."
  • Puffery. Subjective "puffery" ("we're the best!") need not be proven, but factual claims must be substantiated. For example, Yahoo Personals' claim of "Better First Dates" was deemed puffery but an additional claim of "More Second Dates" was not, requiring Yahoo Personals to show the numbers.
  • Product demonstrations. A 2010 case known as the "Charmin Ultra Bears" case established that "product demonstrations must accurately show a product's performance, characteristics or features" -- even if the "demonstration" is simply toilet paper on a cartoon bear's butt. Kimberly-Clark Corp. complained about its rival Procter & Gamble's campaign claiming that Charmin toilet paper leaves "fewer pieces behind" than K-C's Cottonelle. The NAD ruled that the cartoon bears in the P&G ad must be drawn with "at least a few specs of cartoon toilet paper on their rears to accurately reflect that Charmin leaves fewer pieces behind, but not no pieces behind."

Read Ad Age's full list of the Nine Things You Can't Do in Advertising if You Want to Stay on Right Side of the Law here.

Posted by Bruce Carton on March 10, 2011 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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