A few weeks ago we mentioned endorsements, pointing out that they were an effective way of generating click throughs and completions and are particularly effective in email marketing. The post was mainly practical but the Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has come out with guidance on the matter.
The advice, which is described as for non-broadcast advertising, is divided under five headings:
1/ Do not pose as a consumer
In short, you must not write reviews making out they come from satisfied customers. You must not pay someone outside your company to write a review or endorsement making out that they are customers. You may, of course, pay a celebrity to recommend your product as long as it is clear it is an advert. Care needs to be exercised when they use social media under their own name to ensure it is clear they are being paid. #ad seems to be an accepted way of ensuring this.
2/ Seek permission to use the testimonial
You cannot use a testimonial without seeking the writer’s permission. There are implications under Data Protection, although anyone involved in email marketing for a short period of time will not find the limitations too restrictive.
3/ Hold documentary evidence
You must have some form of evidence as to the source and permissions gained. The CAP’s advice states that signed and dated proof is likely to be considered suitable documentary evidence, although it is not the only form of evidence that the ASA will consider acceptable. There is a problem with this as it leaves the boundaries open to argument. Email testimonials from non-provable email addresses, such as @hotmail.com, would not be sufficient without additional proof.
4/ Use testimonials that are relevant to the product
Do not take sentences and phrases out of context, and be careful with those that are ambiguous. These are classics of their kind so to speak. Don’t use a recommendation about a printer to support another product, like a chair.
5/ Beware of restricted product categories
Special restrictions apply to some products, such as medicines.
The advice is quite clear. Be honest in the use of endorsements as you would in any other forms of advertising.