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Truth vs. Deception in Advertising

Truth vs. Deception in Advertising

Federal Trade Commission, SalesHQ

Reviewing Your Ads

What kind of evidence must a company have to support the claims in its ads?

Before a company runs an ad, it has to have a “reasonable basis” for the claims. A “reasonable basis” means objective evidence that supports the claim. The kind of evidence depends on the claim. At a minimum, an advertiser must have the level of evidence that it says it has. For example, the statement “Two out of three doctors recommend ABC Pain Reliever” must be supported by a reliable survey to that effect. If the ad isn’t specific, the FTC looks at several factors to determine what level of proof is necessary, including what experts in the field think is needed to support the claim. In most cases, ads that make health or safety claims must be supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence” – tests, studies, or other scientific evidence that has been evaluated by people qualified to review it. In addition, any tests or studies must be conducted using methods that experts in the field accept as accurate.

Are letters from satisfied customers sufficient to substantiate a claim?

No. Statements from satisfied customers usually are not sufficient to support a health or safety claim or any other claim that requires objective evaluation.

Will the FTC review my company’s ads before they run to make sure that we’ve complied with the law?

FTC staff cannot clear your ads in advance. However, there is guidance to help you comply with the law. Information about advertising particular kinds of products (for example, foods, dietary supplements, or “environmentally friendly” merchandise), advertising credit, and guidelines for advertising on the Internet is available at

More general information and guidelines for advertising are available at . Or call the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices at 202-326-3090.