No, I’m not referring to the Rage Against The Machine song. I’m talking about something much more exciting: commercial testimonials and endorsements! Have you ever watched commercials containing celebrity endorsements or customer testimonials and wondered where the line is for the things they say? For example, when you see an absolutely atrocious commercial for something called the Cookie Diet showcasing weight loss of over one-hundred pounds, do you ask, “How can they say that?”

Well, friends, for your informational pleasure (and for my semi-random rambling), I present you with the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning The Use Of Endorsements And Testimonials In Advertising. Once you get past the initially dry Purposes and Definitions section, the examples themselves are actually quite informative.

One of my favorite guides is the one found at section 255.1(c) – the requirement that an endorser of a product be an actual bona fide user of the product. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, who can forget, “Let’s just say, it works for me,” Rafael Palmeiro, who subsequently denied having the particular malady which would have required Viagra. Then there’s Jimmy Johnson’s bizarre marriage to ExtenZe. Really, Jimmy? “Go Long With ExtenZe, I Do?” Seems to me, certain celebrity endorsers might not be paying attention to rules or they’d be even less likely to run out and endorse some products.

I also like Example 6 under section 255.2(c), the hidden camera actors example. Take this Pizza Hut commercial here and compare it to some kids’ junior high parody here. Despite the fact that Pizza Hut appeared to be displaying actual customers (unless they were blatantly violating the rules) at least some potential consumers believed they were being duped. 

At the end of the day, even if you follow the rules, I don’t think endorsements and testimonials are a particularly effective means of advertisement. To me, paid advertisements always will feel less than honest. How do they feel to you?

  • I received a phone call yesterday offering me the chance to be part of an “endorsement” program. I ended the call without confirming it, but clearly the plan was to generate profit by giving me a “deep discount” in turn for my endorsement. I was not to be so flattered.