Even before the landmark case United States v. Forty Barrels and Twenty Kegs of Coca-Cola, sales manager of Coca-Cola Samuel C. Dobbs took up the cause of Truthfulness in Advertising and became one of its fiercest advocates*. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common practice to make grandiose claims in advertising that simply were not true and/or could not be supported by scientific evidence. For example, ads about the health benefits of smoking and even sugar were commonplace. Coca-Cola, in fact, advertised that it was the cure-all for “morphine addiction, dyspepsia, neurasthenia, headache, impotence,” and was initially marketed as a medicine.
Our country definitely has come a long way, since its early origins in advertising and labeling. Because of landmark reforms made over the past 100 years, companies are required to adhere to certain marketing principles. Any adverse effects must be cited, ingredients, fat/sugar content, whether a product meets Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) standards, etc. Not only that, but advertisements must include all pertinent information, including whether there are hidden charges or if the product may not be available for sale under certain circumstances. A whole body of rules and consumer protection agencies were created because of an outcry from the public and ambitious individuals such as Samuel C. Dobbs, who took a stand against these problems.
In fact, Mr. Dobbs started the Associated Advertising Clubs of America in 1909 and is credited with beginning the “truth-in-advertising” campaign that led to the creation of the Better Business Bureau. He was quite the reformer and gave many a talk on the subject. Because of his interest in making a difference and being passionate about reform in the industry, along with other advocates, consumers have the protections that they do. As is well known though, consumer protection is always a work-in-progress. As we learn that certain ingredients have deleterious effects or that products have defects and need to be recalled, new rules are added on an ongoing basis.
For more information on BBB’s Code of Advertising, visit us here. Our Code of Advertising is based on laws mandated by the Federal Trade Commission. Different rules for product labeling and advertising may apply towards different industries. When in doubt check it out!
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/thelotuscarroll/10560823615/”>Lotus Carroll</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>