Online advertising presents new opportunities no business can afford to miss, if it wants to succeed in today's global marketplace. Businesses are advised to learn how the ground rules for online ads compare with those of the more traditional forms.
Primary responsibility for truthful and accurate advertising rests with the creators of advertising, whether it appears in the online or offline marketplace. With this responsibility comes some of the same issues that are encountered in traditional advertising. What changes is the medium to which the rules are applied.
The most distinctive aspect of online advertising is its interactive nature. Reading an ad in a publication or watching one on TV is a passive experience. When consumers access an ad online, they become an active participant in that ad. The lines between editorial and advertising content can become blurred.
The primary goal of online advertising is to help consumers make informed buying decisions in a way that will encourage a loyal and highly ethical relationship. This can be achieved by applying the principles of truth and accuracy described in the Better Business Bureau Code of Advertising.
- Comparisons: When comparing your product to a similar one made by a competitor, compare related or similar attributes that contribute strongly to the product's worth of usefulness. Do not make "apples and oranges" comparisons that make your product appear superior while ignoring advantages of competitors.
- Claims: Be sure that every claim you make can be supported by facts. Do not use either omission of pertinent information or deception to lure consumers into believing your product delivers more than it actually does.
Technology has also generated new means and methods of advertising, which don't yet have ground rules. Groups are questioning whether the use of bulk email solicitation ("spamming") is ethical. Online privacy protection is also a concern. Consumers what to know how the information (name, email address, buying preferences, etc.) they or their children submit to online advertisers get used and whether it's distributed to other parties.
The BBB can assist businesses in developing truthful and non-deceptive advertising for the online and offline marketplaces. Check for information at the BBB web site (edmonton.bbb.org) or contact your local Better Business Bureau for a copy of the Code of Advertising. The BBB Code of Online Business Practices (www.bbbonline.org) is another resource for online advertisers seeking to market products and services on the Internet.