You've crafted the perfect advertisement for your small business, the kind that is sure to persuade plenty of new customers to try your products and services. What could go wrong? Well, unfortunately, there are a number of legal pitfalls in marketing and advertising that you need to watch out for during your next campaign. Here's what you need to know to protect your business.
Accidentally Deceptive Ads
When you create an ad, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you are truthful and nondeceptive. As such, your ad cannot include any misrepresentations, omissions or other practices that could mislead the customer. For example, if you advertise a special price for your product and only reveal in the fine print that the deal is just for seniors, you could be setting yourself up for legal trouble.
Comparing Your Business to the Competition
If you create an ad comparing your product with that produced by one of your competitors, you must make sure to tread very carefully. If the ad portrays your competitor in a negative light, they may pursue a legal or other action against you. You would also need their express permission to use their trademarks, trade names and logos or risk possible action for infringement. Make sure your ad is also 100% accurate or you are inviting legal action. In an effort to protect your business, you should try your best to keep all of your marketing materials positive and be cautious about using comparison ads.
Missing Disclosures in Digital Ads
When you publish an ad, you may need to incorporate a disclosure message that includes all of the information necessary to keep your marketing assets from being misleading. For example, imagine that your company advertises a monthly rate, but this rate only applies if the customer signs up for a year and there is a penalty fee for canceling. In this case, you would need to include all of this extra information in a disclosure.
You can put your disclosure at the bottom of a print ad or at the end of your radio or TV commercial. However, this process gets a little tricky with digital advertising, as space is more limited, especially if someone views your ad on a mobile device. In this scenario, you should try to include the disclosure as close to your actual claim as possible. Another option is to include a hyperlink at the end of the advertisement that takes the user to the full disclosure on another page. If in doubt, consult the FTC guidelines for online advertising and marketing.
Coupon marketing can be a great way to drum up some new business, but you need to prepare these materials carefully. If you misprint a coupon, the FTC could still require that you meet your commitment as written, even if that is not what you intended. If you don't do so, you could be charged with creating a misleading ad in order to attract new business. When you print coupons, make sure to double-check all of the necessary details before sending them out.
In the end, to help avoid the likelihood of any legal trouble as a result of your advertising campaigns, be accurate, be clear and be careful. By working to avoid these pitfalls in marketing, you can help protect your business as a whole.
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