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November 12, 2019

How to substantiate claims in nutritional supplement advertising

Real quick one today—a crash course on how to substantiate advertising claims based on FTC guidelines.

Right, the first thing you should know is that substantiating (“backing up”) your claims usually requires competent and reliable scientific evidence. 

And, if a particular claim or your ad as a whole lends itself to more than one reasonable interpretation, you are responsible for substantiating them all. 

At a minimum, you must have the level of support that you claim to have in the ad—either expressly or by implication. 

The second thing you should know is that the FTC is particularly interested in unsubstantiated claims that could lead consumers to forego other treatments which have been validated by scientific evidence… or to self-medicate for serious conditions without medical supervision. 

I’m sure you wouldn’t deliberately consider misleading people like this (although there are scumbags who do), but it is certainly possible to get carried away in your enthusiasm for your product and do this accidentally.

Unfortunately, the effect on the consumer is the same, and potentially life-threatening… so… be careful.

Check your endorsements, too. 

At a certain point in the compliance review process, you might be tempted to make up for the watering down of claims using endorsements from customers or experts. 

Before you get too excited, claims made by endorsers are treated in the same vein as claims made anywhere else in the ad—they must have appropriate scientific evidence to back them up.

And, expert endorsers must have appropriate qualifications as an expert. They must also have conducted an examination or testing of the product generally accepted in the field to be sufficient to support the claim. 

And finally, if there is a material connection between the endorser and advertiser, then it must be disclosed. This includes personal, financial or other connections that the consumer wouldn’t reasonably expect.

That’s all for now.


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