[US] Testimonials and Endorsements In Online Advertising – Can We Trust Them?

[US] Testimonials and Endorsements In Online Advertising – Can We Trust Them?

You have seen it many times – blogs or social media posts that contain word-of-a-mouth advertisements regarding weight loss supplements, or an exceptional new book, or any other product mentioned by the reviewer. These reviews often come with a number of “before” and “after” pictures and satisfied customers` testimonials. Needless to say, in a significant number of cases, the truth about the product result is far from what is depicted in the “before” and “after” pictures and the testimonials are not always even real, which seriously undermines our trust in the online reviews we read. 2009 FTC Guidelines What changed after December 1, 2009 is that the US Federal Trade Commission`s (FTC) Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising came into effect. Having a husband active in blogging and social media advertising and being a consumer at the same time, I thought I might have double personal interest to further research the essence of the guidelines and how can they affect the trust in online advertising, not only in US, but rather internationally, with internet being an international phenomenon. The 2009 Guidelines have introduced two main changes that can affect e-commerce in comparison to the previous Guidelines that were last updated in 1980. On one hand endorsements and testimonials or any representation as to products or services must be substantiated. The Guidelines define endorsement as “…any advertising message … that consumers are likely to believe reflects the opinions, beliefs, findings, or experiences of a party other than the sponsoring advertiser”. On the other hand any “material connection” between the online marketer and the product/service being advertised...