Last week the Federal Trade Commission, FTC, published new rules governing endorsements and testimonials. Among the new rules the biggest change (255.2 Consumer endorsements) relates to the advertising disclaimer "Results not typical." This line has been used as a loophole since 1980, allowing advertisements with outrageous claims to be advertised as fact. The new rules state that:
"The Commission tested the communication of advertisements containing testimonials that clearly and prominently disclosed either “Results not typical” or the stronger “These testimonials are based on the experiences of a few people and you are not likely to have similar results.” Neither disclosure adequately reduced the communication that the experiences depicted are generally representative. Based upon this research, the Commission believes that similar disclaimers regarding the limited applicability of an endorser’s experience to what consumers may generally expect to achieve are unlikely to be effective."
The impact of this change has yet to be seen, but many are looking at the positive and negative effects it will have on advertising. Hopefully our late night infomercials will no longer be full of "I made $50,000 in one week" or "Loose 50 pounds in a month with our magic diet" claims. However, unfortunately we may also be seeing less of the one of a kind inspirational stories like Jared Fogle, spokesperson for Subway.
For more than 10 years Subway has utilized the results not typical language when including Jared in their advertisements. While Jared's results were definitely not typical, he has been an icon for the millions struggling to loose weight. His was a success story among all of the failures, and the most surprising was that he lost over 245 pounds by eating fast food.
According to the new guidelines Subway would have to prove that Jared's Subway weight loss experience was "representative of what consumers will generally achieve with the advertised product or service." The guidelines provide many examples of correct and incorrect usage of said endorsements. These examples should limit the loopholes and subsequent false advertising, while aiding in the continued use of accurate and appropriate consumer endorsements. Hopefully keeping Jared on the Subway payroll.