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Fundamental Advertising Principles for Digital Marketing Compliance: Substantiation & Reasonable Basis

Posted: February 15, 2023

Top Two Fundamental Advertising Principles

Fundamental FTC principle #1:

“Before disseminating an advertisement, the advertiser must substantiate all claims – express and implied – that the ad conveys to reasonable consumers.”

Fundamental FTC principle #2:

The underlying requirement for ad claim substantiation is that "... advertisers and ad agencies have a reasonable basis for advertising claims before they are disseminated.”

What is marketing claim substantiation in a nutshell?

In a nutshell, substantiation is the end result of an advertiser's process of developing and demonstrating reasonable basis for an ad claim.

What are the 6 factors for determining "reasonable basis"?

Reasonable basis is a relatively flexible standard that requires weighing a number of factors that include (but are not limited to) the following 6 factors:

1. The type of claim,

2. The product,

3. The consequences of a false claim,

4. The benefits of a truthful claim,

5. The cost of developing substantiation for the claim, and

6. The amount of substantiation experts in the field believe is reasonable.

The analysis of the 6 factors is different for each ad claim.

Some advertising claims are easier to substantiate than others.

If a claim can't be substantiated with the evidence on hand, then one option is to revise or qualify the claim so it can be properly substantiated.

Why you should parse advertising claims before publication

To feel confident that you've conducted the foregoing analysis in the spirit of FTC guidelines, and you should carefully parse the claim on a granular level to  determine net impression.

The best example of granular parsing is former President Bill Clinton's famous statement: “It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.”


If you think about and parse your ad's net impression on Clinton's level, you're on the right track.

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