The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) this week issued a reminder for firms that use testimonials and endorsements as part of their marketing strategy.
The article, published on the ASA/CAP website, says that while endorsements and testimonials are ‘a popular, effective – and perfectly legitimate – method of promoting your product or service’, marketers should make sure that ‘such claims…are accurate, capable of substantiation and unlikely to mislead’.
What is the Committee of Advertising Practice?
These rules apply to all firms, including those not governed by any other regulator. They also apply across all platforms – the CAP Code is media-neutral – so quotes or other endorsements need to meet the same rules on your website or on social media as they do in print.
We’ve written previously about the work and rules of CAP and the ASA. Last week, we looked at their rules around advertising on emerging platforms, while our blog on how to avoid producing misleading adverts has advice on how to ensure your ads don’t fall foul of their rules.
Creating compliant testimonials and endorsements
What can you do to ensure that your endorsements and testimonials are compliant with the CAP Code?
The article has 7 tips:1. You need to demonstrate that they’re genuine
You need to hold evidence that any testimonials and endorsements you use are real. They should accurately reflect what the person said. CAP also suggests that you keep the contact details of the person featured for as long as the ad is used.2. You need to obtain permission
As the article says, ‘Most people are unlikely to enjoy finding their face unexpectedly plastered across an ad campaign’. Getting explicit consent is therefore essential before you use any quote, testimonial or endorsement. There are a few exceptions to this, detailed in CAP Code rule 3.48.
3. Testimonials and endorsements need to be relevant
Although this may seem obvious, you should ‘avoid using testimonials or endorsements in misleading ways’. The article cites the example of ‘before and after’ photographs used to promote weight loss products, which should accurately portray the actual weight lost over the stated period.
In financial services, a comparative example might be the use of data to show investment growth – here, any performance figures or timescales quoted would need to be highly accurate.4. #Ads need to be clearly signposted
The ASA and CAP have made it clear that any posts on social media where third parties are paid to endorse products need to be clearly shown as such. The hashtag #ad should be used to denote adverts or paid promotions. Read more on this in our blog on ensuring your influencer marketing is compliant.5. Don’t incentivise people to leave positive endorsements
As the article says, ‘consumers have the right to see both sides of the story when it comes to public feedback’.
You can breach the ASA/CAP rules if you encourage customers to post positive reviews. Similarly, amending or deleting negative reviews can also breach the code, although the article does point out that ‘removing genuinely offensive comments, personal information or potentially illegal content is likely to be fine’.
6. Some ad categories are restricted and need to be treated differently
You need to take particular care if you are working in some sensitive ad categories. Neither health professionals nor celebrities should be used to endorse medicines, for example.
7. Make sure testimonials follow the more general CAP rules
The article makes the point that you cannot make claims in testimonials that would otherwise break the ASA/CAP rules. Any endorsements or quotes must follow the more general rules.
Stay compliant when using testimonials and endorsements
Using customer and client quotes, case studies and other endorsements can help you to tell stories about your brand as part of your overall content marketing strategy. Make sure you follow the rules to get maximum benefit with minimum risk. Hopefully these seven tips will help you to achieve that.
Being compliant with the rules that govern your marketing activity is essential – whether you’re regulated just by the ASA/CAP or also fall under the remit of another regulator like the Financial Conduct Authority.
If you want to read more about why compliance and brand are intrinsically linked, you can download a copy of our whitepaper, The importance of compliance to brand strategy. It’s free, and you can download a copy from our resource library.
Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.