Testimonials must relate to the product advertised and claims in a testimonial that are likely to be interpreted as factual must not mislead or be likely to mislead the consumer (Rules 3.46 and 3.47). Marketers may not use testimonials to circumvent the Code by making claims in a consumer review that they would not otherwise be permitted to make. For example, if a marketer doesn’t hold the evidence to substantiate an efficacy claim, they cannot use a testimonial which makes that claim.
Testimonials alone do not constitute substantiation so marketers should not rely on testimonials as support for any direct or implied claims made in the marketing communication. Although it acknowledged that a testimonial which made implied claims that a topically applied gel could have similar effects to surgery might have been a genuinely held opinion, the ASA held it breached the Code because the marketer did not provide objective evidence to show the product was an effective alternative to surgery (Rodial Ltd, 11 January 2012). Customer survey responses which made positive comments about saving money on energy bills were not considered adequate substantiation for savings claims (Bright Networks Ltd t/a Bright Heating, 9 January 2013).
The ASA upheld complaints against a testimonial which described a individual’s theory regarding “hexagonal water” because it considered consumers would interpret the claims as being in relation to a theory based on evidence, particularly because it appeared to be endorsed by a scientist (Water for Health Ltd, 3 July 2013).
Marketers using a testimonial must hold evidence that it is genuine. This requirement has two elements; i.e. that the quote is from a real person and that it reflects what they said.
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