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Better Business Bureau ®
Start With Trust®
Minnesota and North Dakota
Advertising Review Services
Mission: to support and promote self regulation; to monitor print, broadcast and electronic media; to challenge misleading advertising; and to spotlight substandard marketplace practices

Advertising Review is the foundation on which the Better Business Bureau system was built. Originally called Vigilance Committees, Better Business Bureaus were founded specifically to address problems with deceptive and misleading advertising. Since 1912, the Better Business Bureau has greatly expanded its services, yet Advertising Review remains one of its most fundamental and important functions. We review advertising of all kinds and directly contact businesses to modify, clarify or substantiate claims in advertising. The BBB’s Advertising Review Program helps advance marketplace trust by promoting clear and trustworthy ads to decrease confusion and complaints by consumers, improves the reputation of area businesses and encourages fair competition in the market.

In addition, to further promote an ethical advertising market our local BBB collaborates with area enforcement agencies and a variety of Council of Better Business Bureau advertising programs, including: National Advertising Review Council, Children’s Advertising Review Unit, Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program.

The BBB monitors print, electronic and broadcast media daily, across Minnesota and North Dakota, through the following programs:

Clipping Sessions begin with stacks of newspapers and direct mail from all across our service area of Minnesota and North Dakota. Our staff looks for certain phrases, disclosures, claims and industries that may be misleading or confusing. Questionable ads are clipped and marked for review; further action is taken with the business, as necessary.

Web Surfing Sessions are designed to bring the same level of review to internet ads and websites.

Ad Hawks are consumers throughout Minnesota and North Dakota who are our eyes and ears. These volunteers give additional attention to both television and radio advertising, as well as reviewing online, mobile and direct mail ads, ultimately bringing forward any concerns to the BBB for further review or action.

The BBB addresses misleading advertising in the following ways:

Advertising Challenges
We review advertising and contact the business about their advertising when we find or are notified of claims that are or could be misleading or confusing to consumers. We seek voluntary responses from businesses to substantiate, modify or discontinue the ad claims. Not responding or addressing an advertising inquiry can impact the company’s rating.

AdAlerts
We assess current advertising trends in the marketplace and develop AdAlerts for distribution to consumers, advertisers and industry representatives which include a “BBB position” and resources in an effort to reduce and prevent consumer confusion and complaints.

Educational Workshops and Presentations
We provide customized educational workshops to business leaders, schools, advertising agencies and related entities on variety of advertising topics, including: ethics, trends, and/or the rules of the road for advertising (such as disclosures, coupons and contests).

BBB Brand Management
To protect our strong, trustworthy BBB brand, we regularly monitor the Better Business Bureau name and combat misuse of the BBB logo in our market and across the country. We refer matters of non-compliance to the Council of Better Business Bureau’s trademark attorneys.

Advertising Review Services for Businesses

Prior to Publication Ad Review Service 
Businesses can use the BBB’s free Prior-to-Publication program by sending their proposed advertising to BBB staff to be checked for compliance with the BBB’s Code of Advertising, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules and other guidelines. We also check for possible errors or offers that might confuse or mislead consumers. BBB staff understands advertising deadlines and make this service a priority. The BBB is willing to be the extra set of eyes looking over advertising before it is published or broadcast.   

Competitor Advertising Review
This service is designed for competitors to bring a problematic marketplace practice or advertising concern to the BBB’s attention, and have the option to remain anonymous. The BBB understands that each business is most familiar with the issues impacting their industry, and may know of a problem the BBB is unaware of and can assist with finding a resolution. The BBB does reserve the right to determine what action will be taken. 

On-Site and Phone Secret Shopping Program
The BBB has volunteer secret shoppers who interact with area businesses to experience marketplace behavior and sales presentation at the point of contact to verify advertised offers and support investigations. We verify a company’s advertising claim is consistent with best selling practices. The shoppers are BBB staff, interns and community volunteers.  Area businesses can reach out to the BBB to have its company “secret shopped” by our team. 

For any advertising review help or questions, contact Karen Thompson at karen.thompson@thefirstbbb.org.

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