BBB Puts Testimonials to the Test: Who Can You Trust?

endorsement smaller 150x150 BBB Puts Testimonials to the Test: Who Can You Trust?Celebrities, sports icons, business moguls and organizations promoting products can often be the deciding factor when a consumer chooses to buy a particular product.  Testimonials and endorsements are most effective when a product or service is easily identifiable with the celebrity’s image.

Jamie Lee Curtis for Dannon Activia yogurt, Eli and Peyton Manning for Oreo cookies, Michael Jordan for Hanes and Eva Longoria for L’Oreal are a few very recognizable celebrity endorsements.

Sometimes endorsements are not so successful. The Cover Girl Brand pulled the Taylor Swift mascara commercials because of controversy concerning her “enhanced” eyelashes. In this case, the National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus questioned whether the thickness of Swift’s lashes, which were digitally enhanced, could actually be achieved with the mascara product.

BBB routinely requests that businesses refrain from using testimonials deceptively.  Most importantly, testimonials that tout results shouldn’t be used unless the advertiser has proof the claims are absolutely true – and, backed by competent and reliable scientific evidence.  BBB Dallas Advertising Review challenged several advertisers in 2012 concerning testimonials.

The BBB Code of Advertising offers guidelines for advertising testimonials and endorsements.  In general, testimonials or endorsements are likely to mislead or confuse if the statement is not genuine, not quoted in its entirety, or even if literally true, creates deceptive implications.  The endorser should be competent or sufficiently qualified to make claimed results concerning the quality of the product or service being advertised and the endorser should also disclose if a financial interest exists with the business whose product or service is endorsed.

Advertisers, agencies and the media should ensure compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations governing advertising.  Namely, advertisers should consult the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Guides on Testimonials and Endorsements for detailed guidance.

Overall, testimonials and endorsements should always reflect the honest opinions, results, or experience of the endorser.  They should not contain any representations which would be misleading, deceptive, or could not be substantiated by the advertiser.

For businesses, the takeaway should be to take caution when people making testimonials or endorsements make claims about what the product or service can deliver.  Businesses should disclose any relationship that exists between themselves and the people making the testimonial or endorsement.

As a consumer, don’t take all endorsements at face value.  Look for objective facts that back up the claims and perform online research about the business.  Free resources are available at bbb.org to view business reviews and ratings on companies.

In essence, keep your eyes open concerning testimonials and endorsements, because you’re worth it!

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About Melanie S. Alakkam

Melanie Alakkam, Senior Business Standards Analyst in the Advertising Review department, joined BBB Serving Dallas and Northeast Texas in 2010. Melanie has a passion for fulfilling the BBB’s original mission: promoting truth in advertising. She works with businesses to achieve the highest ethical advertising standards through voluntary self-regulation.