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Advertising Law 101; Consider Federal and Local Advertising Laws

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Advertising Law 101; Consider Federal and Local Advertising Laws

By JimD
Published: October 20, 2010

Advertising is an essential part to any small business. Confined by small budgets and limited resources, advertisements must give you a good bang for your buck. However, small business owners need to remember that there are some important regulations that the advertisements need to follow.

Business.gov and the Bureau of Consumer Protection under the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have many resources to help small business navigate through the laws and regulations related to advertising. Additionally, every state has consumer protection laws that govern ads running in that state. Before running an advertisement, check with your stat;s regulations.

The first thing to remember for all advertisements is to comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act:

  • Advertising must be truthful and non-deceptive;
  • Advertisers must have evidence to back up their claims; and
  • Advertisements cannot be unfair.

Next, confirm that you are not violating state and local truth-in-advertising laws. The Consumer Action Handbook provides links to state and local agencies responsible for enforcing truth-in-advertising and related consumer protection laws.


  • Advertising to Children

    There are specific laws that protect children. A portion of the Division of Advertising Practices are dedicated to monitoring and stopping fraudulent alcohol, tobacco, violent entertainment, and food advertising practices that target children. Because the FTC recognizes the increased susceptibility of the child audience, it also protects children from unfair and deceptive marketing practices in general industries such as with toys. For details on how to advertise your product appropriately to children, read:

  • Green Consumers

    As your market becomes more competitive, taking the green approach may give you an edge on your competitors. Start your green marketing campaign by ensuring your green claims are credible. Do this by having your product certified that it was produced in an environmentally sound manner. Many different organizations can certify your product as green depending on your product. Check out the Green Marketing Guide for more information.


  • Labeling

    If you make claims that your product contains (or does not contain) certain ingredients or is made in the USA, it needs to be properly labeled. The label can easily be overlooked, but there can be fines if not followed correctly. As food labeling and nutrition become increasingly popular national topics, and there may be new initiatives to consider in the future. Research guidance from the Food and Drug Administration and the FTC, two agencies that oversee labeling compliance, to stay up-to-date on requirements:

  • Specific Products

    Business.go's Advertising Law Guide provides information for retailers and manufacturers on a variety of specific products - from health and fitness products to food to real estate - and topic areas, including online advertising and green marketing. Below are some key topic areas that you should familiarize yourself with as a small business advertiser. For a detailed outline of topics, see the Advertising Law Guide.

  • Delivery

    If you operate an online store or if your business plans to expand into an online store, you will need to comply with the Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Trade Regulation Rule. Enacted by the FTC, this rule establishes protection for both the seller and consumer when it comes to selling goods remotely. For more information on this rule, see a Quick Guide to FT's Mail or Telephone Order Merchandise Rule.


If you have additional questions about advertising feel free to post them on the discussion boards for community members to answer.

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Thanks for sharing this information. I would like to add that email marketing is not as popular as it used to be due to the amount of spam content and even the number of email we all receive every day. However building a clean list of contact that WANT to receive your business information can be a valuable marketing action and lead to more sales. In addition, any small business owner should not miss adding their business on AmeroBiz.

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