NAD Recommends ‘Your Baby Can’ Discontinue Certain Testimonials Claims for ‘Your Baby Can Read’ Program

York, New York – April 5,  2011– The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus has recommended that Your Baby Can, LLC, which markets the “Your Baby Can Read Early Language Development System,” modify or discontinue certain advertising claims included in testimonials for the program.

 While NAD determined that the advertiser’s testing supported its contention that use of the YBCR program would teach babies to recognize the words specifically taught through the YBCR Program, NAD found that such testing did not provide substantiation for claims – conveyed through consumer testimonials – that babies exposed to the YBCR program would learn to read words that were not specifically taught through the program.

NAD, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory forum, reviewed advertising for the product following a challenge by LeapFrog Enterprises.

At the outset, the advertiser argued that NAD should decline to exercise jurisdiction over the advertising at issue because class-action complaints filed against YBC in California contained the same claims as those at issue in the NAD proceeding.  NAD Procedures provide that if the advertising claims complained of are the subject of litigation, NAD will administratively close its case.

 Following its reviews of the claims at issue in the California class action, however, NAD determined that the truth and accuracy of the claims conveyed through the advertiser’s consumer testimonials were not the subject of pending litigation.

NAD did, however, administratively close the proceeding with respect to the advertiser’s express claims, claims regarding the advertiser’s trade name “Your Baby Can Read!,” the implied claim that there is a benefit to teaching reading in infancy and the issue of whether the advertiser’s failure to disclose the difficulty of utilizing the YBCR program is the omission of a material fact.

 Testimonial claims at issue in NAD’s review included:

 “Because of Your Baby Can Read, at 19 months, Evan is reading over 500 words.”  

  • [I]t is a “mistake to wait till children get to school to teach them this basic life skill.  If you do this program for the 7 months  . . . your child will be thanking you when they’re 30 years old and they have accomplished so much in life and they’re brilliant people.  You cannot put a dollar value on what you get back. . . . This is a life skill.”
  • “You have to start early.  I don’t think starting later and just assuming because they’re infants they don’t have the ability – I mean that’s the wrong assumption,” followed by video showing Graham (at 3 years old) reading from books.
  • “I think all babies love to learn.  It’s just nurturing the love of learning instead of waiting ‘til they’re 5 or 6 years old and then it’s a chore for them.”

 According to the challenger, YBC markets an “Early Language Development System” called “Your Baby Can Read!”  that purports to teach babies to read using DVDs, flashcards, and books.  The challenger asserted that YBC uses a broad-based marketing campaign, including its Website (www.yourbabycanread.com), direct mail, television and radio advertising, infomercials, and various social media such as Facebook and the Twitter page of YBCR’s developer and founder, Dr. Robert Titzer.  The products are sold in retail stores nationwide, via the Website, and through a 1-800-number.

 While NAD agreed with the advertiser that the net impression of its consumer testimonials was that “reading” is a highly individualized skill and each child’s performance will vary, NAD determined that the advertiser’s consumer testimonials conveyed the message that the YBCR product would teach babies to read words that were not specifically taught through the program, a message unsupported by the advertiser’s evidence.

 NAD recommended that the advertiser modify its testimonials, including videos of infants and young children, to comply with the Federal Trade Commission Guides on Endorsements and Testimonials by clearly and conspicuously disclosing the performance that consumers can typically expect from the product.

 NAD noted that testimonials should also clearly disclose the timeframe in which consumers must use the product before they may achieve the expected results.

 NAD further found that the advertiser’s consumer testimonials conveyed the message that use of YBCR early in life will have a long-term effect on a child’s reading ability and later success in school and life.  In the absence of any reliable support for this claim, NAD recommended that the advertiser discontinue consumer testimonials, that expressly or by implication, convey the message that babies taught by YBCR early in life will perform better in school and/or later in life.   

 NAD’s recommendations apply to the advertiser’s consumer testimonials everywhere they appear, including but not limited to the YBCR website and any related Websites, direct mail, television and radio advertising, infomercials, and various social media such as Facebook, YouTube, and in Twitter feeds.

 The advertiser expressed its disagreement with certain of NAD’s findings, but said the company “appreciates the opportunity to participate in the self-regulatory program and will take NAD’s recommendations into account in future advertising.”