Trust in advertising is earned, not simply posted on a billboard

By Dale Dixon/ chief trust evangelist

While driving a back road traversing the state, a small billboard stands out among its surroundings; “Most Trusted Internet Provider” providing company name, phone number, and web address.

Granted it’s a small billboard for Microserv, an Internet provider, near Shelley, but it begs the question of who is naming this the “most trusted” company.

For years, Better Business Bureau has promoted public confidence in advertising. BBB works to help business support truthful advertising through voluntary action, primarily by promoting compliance to the BBB Code of Advertising.

When you travel around the region, don’t feel helpless when you come across questionable advertising. By contacting BBB, you start the ad review process. BBB’s advertising review director will check advertising issues. When proper, BBB will ask for substantiation or change. You may contact BBB about advertising issues writing to

Key questions:

Who carries the primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising? The advertiser

Advertisers may offer a price reduction or saving by comparing their selling price with:

  • their own former selling price,
  • the current selling price of identical merchandise sold by others in the market are
  • the current selling price of comparable merchandise sold by the advertiser or by others in the market area.

When can a list price be advertised as comparative to the advertised sales price? When it is the real selling price now charged by the advertiser or by representative principal retailers in the market area where the claim is made.

When can the word sale be used? “Sale” may be used in advertising only if there is a significant reduction from the advertiser’s usual and customary price of the merchandise offered on a limited-time sale. The word “free” is an unconditional gift offering.

What does bait and switch mean? “Bait” is an alluring but insincere offer to sell a product or service the advertiser does not intend to sell. Its purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise or service, to sell something else, usually at a higher price or on a basis more helpful to the advertiser.

How should used products be advertised? Used, secondhand, etc. products before used by a consumer should be clearly and conspicuously described as such, e.g., “used,” “secondhand,” “pre-owned,” “repossessed,” “rebuilt,” “reconditioned.”

If an advertiser offers a “free” gift that is conditional when buying another item, what must an advertiser do? The advertiser must show this condition clearly and conspicuously together with the “free” offer (not by placing an asterisk or symbol next to “free” and referring to the condition(s) in a footnote). The normal price of the merchandise or service to be purchased must not have been increased nor its measure or quality reduced. The “free” offer must be temporary; otherwise, it would become a continuous combination offer, no part of which is free.

If a “free” offer is part of a negotiated sale what must the advertiser do? The product or service to be purchased usually is sold at a price arrived at through bargaining, and not at a regular price; or there may be a regular price but other material factors such as measure, quality or size are arrived at through bargaining.



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Filed under Code of Advertising

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