NAD Reviews Viral-Video Advertising

New York, NY – Nov.  17, 2008 – Advertising claims made in the context of viral videos produced to build interest in a product are subject to the same standards of truth and accuracy as advertisements published in traditional media, The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus said today.

NAD determined in a recent case that the advertising claims at issue in a viral video fell outside its jurisdiction because the company asserted the video was discontinued prior to the opening of NAD’s inquiry. NAD did not, therefore, rule on the merits. However, the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body did take the opportunity offered by its review to provide guidance on principles that apply to advertising in non-traditional media.

NAD examined a video clip disseminated by Cardo Systems, the manufacturer of wireless Bluetooth head-sets, as part of a viral marketing campaign. The video, which appeared on the YouTube Website, depicts individuals using their cell phones to pop popcorn kernels in close proximity.  

NAD had requested that the advertiser address certain potential concerns including the possibility that the video clip communicated implied claims about the level of heat and/or radiation emitted by cell phones and the need to use headsets.

NAD noted, as well, that an issue may be raised by the failure to disclose the commercial nature of the message.

In response to NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser noted that its intent was to run the “Popcorn” video for a short time, build an audience, and subsequently communicate a marketing message about Bluetooth headset products to that audience. The advertiser subsequently posted a video on YouTube explaining the spoof nature of the Popcorn video and identifying Cardo Systems. The subsequent video invited people to visit the Cardo Systems Website and presented information about the advertiser’s products.  

In non-traditional media, to the extent that advertising claims are communicated, advertisers are required to substantiate those claims with competent and reliable scientific evidence, NAD noted.