Guess what? When it comes to the claims you make in your advertising, substantiation matters – a lot. The FTC’s recent Final Order against POM Wonderful (POM) in which it found nearly 40 claims made by POM about its pomegranate juice products to be false and misleading based on the absence of proper substantiation, should leave no doubt that the FTC takes the issue of claim support very seriously. And the fact that most of POM’s challenged claims – claims regarding potential health benefits of the products, including that consumption could help treat, prevent, or reduce the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, or erectile dysfunction – were not actually express claims, but rather implied claims (from both the wording and imagery of the ad), should be a reminder to us all that the entire advertisement and the overall “net impression” it conveys must be carefully considered.

A little background: In September 2010, the FTC issued an administrative complaint alleging that POM had disseminated advertising materials claiming health and disease prevention benefits from consumption of its pomegranate juice products without having a reasonable basis to make those claims. We all remember those ads, a beautifully shot bottle of POM with a broken noose around its neck and the headline “Cheat Death.” In its defense, POM argued that consumers did not take many of its ads literally, so that any perceived health claims in those ads were not material to consumers, and that when it made express health claims in ads, POM had substantiation for the claims, in the form of surveys and of studies done on animals. The FTC’s position was that all the health benefit claims made by POM – whether express or implied – were material to consumers and therefore required a “reasonable basis” of support, which POM lacked. In addition, where POM claimed to have clinical proof of the claim, the FTC argued that POM had no such proof. The FTC’s position was that for the types of health and disease prevention claims POM was making, a “reasonable basis” of support required a well-designed, well-conducted, double-blind, randomized controlled clinical trial (RCT). In fact it required two RCTs. And for the establishment claims, the FTC’s believed clinical proof also meant RCTs.

Continue Reading POM Wonderful

Spotting industry trends and making forecasts for a year ahead is a challenge, especially in an age of constant change and technological developments.  The way I see it, in terms of trends, it is critical to seek out the best when you need to spot trends and discern the real change elements at work.  After offering my year in review and looking back at the trends in 2012, it’s time to also look ahead.  We are at the dawn of a new year – a year filled with potential and uncertainty.  So, let’s get some clarity on what the future holds.

The Way the Industry Sees It

I had the pleasure of speaking with Marian Salzman, CEO of Havas (formerly Euro RSCG) Worldwide PR, North America, who is viewed as the trendspotter in the world today, about her thoughts for the year ahead and some secret tips to spotting trends for the advertising industry.

I’m always fascinated by your annual trends reports.  Without revealing any secrets, could you explain your process for identifying trends and making forecasts for the coming year?

My thing is pattern recognition, incorporating an eye for the oddball statistic.  There would have been no metrosexual mania, at least not instigated by me, if there hadn’t been a few stunning numbers popping.  Back in 2003, guys began to feel they were no longer guaranteed to be CEO of the bedroom or the boardroom.  They suddenly had a serious interest in the kitchen.   Straight men were increasingly comfortable socializing with gay men.  2003 seems like the dark ages, but it illustrates the kinds of observations that set me off on an investigation.  Ever since Al Gore invented the Internet (kidding) in the early 1990s, I have been a huge information surfer.  Today, this process can be automated for me with services such as Factiva clipping in real time.  Finally, my trendspotting would be much less robust if not for an informal network of trendspotters around the globe who log in all kinds of sightings.  (In fact, I did not invent the word metrosexual—it was invented by journalist Mark Simpson in the early 1990s.  But it was forwarded to me by a colleague and I matched the word to my sighting, Men Get Softer – the rest was history.)  This past year, I launched TrendsU, an e-learning program about how to trendspot, for all Havas staff around the world.  About 550 people from around the world studied the four modules and shared their sightings with me, and even pictures are now compiled (the thousand-words adage never rang more true) on our TrendsU Pinterest board.[/a]

In 2012, you focused on the trend toward achieving a grainy, “Polaroid” effect for digital photography with the popularity of apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic. How do you think the world of apps and wireless will evolve in 2013?

Wireless will be so ubiquitous that discussing it will be almost like talking about the Internet or even the dial tone.  I agree with a recent post of yours that it will be very interesting to see how the advertising, marketing and communications industries will adapt to a wireless world.  I remember helping on a pitch for IBM back in the dark ages for which we interviewed people about the future, and Kevin Kelly, the co-founding editor of Wired, talked to us about the future like it would happen a week from Thursday.  Well, it’s finally a week from Thursday, and always-on, constant connectivity is the new normal.  People take mobile devices to bed, to the toilet and onto airplanes and assume, voilà, they’ll be connected because connectivity is a given.  Back in 1993, Kelly told us connectivity would be like air or water.  Apps for 2013 are like software was a decade ago, except that the innovations are coming every 22 seconds.  Before you know you need an app, there it is.  Simplification has been a trend for 15 years, and apps are the epitome of simplification.  Branded apps are a given.  Tablets are making apps even more essential.  I want to do more on the fly, more quickly, and an app ensures I get it done, seamlessly.  The app I expect next year is for voting – the most prehistoric thing we still do without much connectivity.  Seriously, in 2013, you want me to walk to a school and fill out some paperwork and pull levers?  How very last century.  Once Americans can vote online using apps and smartphones or tablets, expect a much more engaged population to be that much more connected on issues and topics that matter to them.

Continue Reading What’s Next in 2013: A Lesson in Trendspotting with Marian Salzman

Ahh, America’s favorite pastime. Hot dogs, peanuts, jerseys, and Big League Chew. We have all heard the call at the stadium – “Beer here.”  Major League Baseball commands attention, defining summer for sports fans and inflaming longstanding hometown rivalries.  I live in New York City, though I was raised outside Boston.  Talk about a rivalry – the Yankees and Red Sox – though not a good year for the BoSox this year.  Every home run, broken bat and strikeout adds up to the biggest baseball event of the year: the World Series.

The World Series is one of the key tent pole events of the advertising year.  It is important to big brands and advertisers.  Sports is a great way to reach a key male demographic; so for car companies, beer, snack food, soft drink, and other brands, the World Series is one of the championship venues in which they need to play. This is true not only for national advertisers, but local advertisers as well.  So you might see a major automotive company in the national network television spots and local dealer association advertising in the local spots for a market.  If you are thirsty, hungry, need a deodorant, a new shaver, or a new car – watch the World Series.

The Way I See It

  • I see the best of athletic competition bringing new thrills and touching childhood memories.  I see television advertising at its best touching a key advertising demographic.
  • I see the smart use of online, mobile, and social media by MLB to keep consumers in touch who are not in front of the television, giving advertisers multiple platforms to reach their audience.
  • I see athletes competing and I look for the next breakout star shaving, eating cereal or promoting the features of a new car.

The Way the Industry Sees It

To learn more about baseball’s biggest matchup and what it means to the advertising industry, I sat down with Jacqueline Parkes, the first-ever Chief Marketing Officer of Major League Baseball.  She answered some of my biggest questions about the World Series for advertisers.

[Since the World Series is a competition that lasts anywhere from 4 to 7 games, does MLB view this as a competitive advantage in terms of marketing value over some other sports championship competition that may be only be one game?

Every event is different and presents its own unique opportunities.  The World Series has stood the test of time to consistently stand as one of the jewel events of the television calendar.  From an advertising standpoint, our partners at FOX routinely sell out of all inventory.  We all focus primarily on the first four games since we know they will definitely take place – as MLB did this year by dedicating each of the first four games to an important community initiative (Stand Up To Cancer, Welcome Back Veterans, youth charities and Habitat for Humanity) – and then if and when games 5, 6 and 7 take place we all move quickly to activate around them.  We feel it is very important to leverage our largest promotional platform, the World Series, to build awareness for charities that help drive our communities.

How important are historic or geographic rivalries to baseball and the World Series?  Do they factor into marketing the MLB?

Certain matchups between teams with a long history can sometimes help bring in more viewers at the start of a World Series, but it’s been proven time and time again that in the end, the drama on the field will bring in the viewers regardless of who’s playing.  In 2011, the Cardinals and Rangers came into the World Series having never faced each other, and yet the seventh game of that epic World Series was the most-watched baseball game since the Red Sox ended their 86-year drought in 2004.

Continue Reading Take Me Out to the Ball Game, Advertisers

Ask anyone in Ohio what they’re least excited for during the home stretch of this year’s Election season, and I bet you they’ll say the non-stop television, print, and online advertisements from Obama, Romney, and other Ohio politicians trying to win the battleground state. At the Democratic National Convention in August, the crowd cheered and laughed when Obama said he was even tired of saying, “I’m Barack Obama and I approve this message.”  Election season always means a surging tidal wave of political advertising. The 2012 elections are expected to break records for ad spend – after the 2008 elections hit a new record as well. According to Kantar CMAG, the United States will see 43,000 political spots a day until Election Day. We know what all of this means for the average American voter preparing to go to the polls, but what does it mean for the advertising industry?

The Way I See It

  • I see a surge of revenue for local television stations, especially in battleground states, and online ad networks with spots from politicians and campaigns, as well as business groups, interest groups, and think tanks.
  • I see a promising surge in activity for the advertising industry that should have a positive overall impact on advertising spending – perhaps enough for the rumored recession ahead to be postponed.
  • I see an election season that may spell change for the future of political advertising and advertising in general – with a potential shift from traditional, local TV spots commandeering political ad spend to more innovative online, social media, and mobile advertising claiming more of the ad dollars. What has a greater impact on voters?

The Way the Industry Sees It

I sat down with Steve Farella, the founder and CEO of TargetCast, to pick his brain on this year’s political ad spend and what it means for the advertising industry as a whole.

Kantar CMAG projected the total spending on local spot TV advertising in the 2012 elections will be at $3 billion. What impact will that have on the advertising market as a whole?

At this point in the race, the largest ad spends are anticipated to be in those states that are still considered “swing states” where it is unclear whether they ultimately join with other blue or red states in the election. Those states currently include: New Hampshire, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, and Colorado. Generally we see little national advertising and it tends to have only slight or no impact on national broadcast. Most agencies work with their clients to plan their local scheduling and daypart utilization so that, where possible, they side-step the heaviest pre-election weeks based on the clients’ needs. Primetime garners 23% of campaign spend, while combined News dayparts gets 32%. Early Morning saw significant growth between 2008 and 2010 and we expect that trend to continue. Access and Early Fringe also see activity while Late Night, Daytime, and Weekend see less.

In 2008, spending on political ads hit a new record. How does 2012 spending and overall advertising compare with the last election?

The explosion of Super Pacs – 501 (c)(4) organizations, trade associations with political arms – are the biggest development in 2012. For example, advertising weight in the market of Columbus, Ohio for the week of 8/15-8/22 reached 1,842 presidential race spots as compared to 832 spots in 2008. Las Vegas saw its presidential spot count go from 925 in 2008 to a record 2,870 in 2012. Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker has raised political advertising estimates from $4.9 billion to $5.2 billion by Election Night. So far, presidential candidates have spent more than seven times the amount of money spent in 2008 on digital ads (up from $22MM to $159MM). Online ad spending has doubled as a percentage of campaigns’ budgets over the same time period. Thus far, online ad dollars have mostly focused on emails, display ads, sponsored search terms, and audio and video ads.

Continue Reading Paid for by Ron Urbach: 2012 Election Season for the Advertising Industry

On Thursday during Advertising Week in New York City, I hosted an event called “Mission Impossible: Truth & Privacy – The Future is Now,” featuring Commissioner Julie Brill of the Federal Trade Commission, along with Frank Abagnale, one of the world’s foremost authorities on fraud and identity theft (you may know him best from the film Catch Me If You Can – he was portrayed by none other than Leonardo DiCaprio), and Jonathan Salem Baskin, Co-Author of Tell The Truth. Privacy is an issue everyone is talking about these days, and I wanted to share with you some of the thoughts and issues discussed during the session at Advertising Week. Click here to view a video of Ron’s conversation with FTC Commissioner Julie Brill.

Advertising is a fascinating and complex industry, reflecting the latest innovations, the newest technologies, and, of course, the height of creativity. Advertising is a reflection of the fundamental changes sweeping our society – the transformative effect of digital, the changes in all forms of media, the importance of data and the rise of wireless. Amidst this rapid change, privacy is one of the most important issues in the advertising and media business, and one which demands our attention now, not tomorrow.

The Way I See It

  • I see that digital technology and media has created an unprecedented “Holy Grail” opportunity for marketers to have conversations with consumers as individuals wherever they are on a broad array of devices. The question we must answer is, how do we manage the legitimate privacy concerns?
  • I see the FTC’s role and influence in steering the privacy and data security debate and action rising in importance.
  • I see global marketers and agencies working in good faith either alone or in groups to navigate safely through leading edge issues and the concerns of interested parties – the government, agencies, marketers, technology providers, media and consumers.
  • I see “do not track” continue to be a central issue that focuses many of the important advertising industry and societal issues about both what can be and what should be.
  • I see “privacy by design” being a simple concept, but a difficult concept to execute in real time.

The Way The Industry Sees It

Commissioner Julie Brill of the FTC shared some extremely valuable insights with me and the attendees of our Advertising Week session. I then asked Commissioner Brill some follow up questions that touched upon some of the conversation that we had in our Advertising Week session.

Can you highlight what you see as the role of the FTC in regards to its relationship with the advertising industry’s need to focus on consumer privacy and data security?

The Commission has developed a set of best practices, as outlined in the agency’s March 2012 final privacy framework, for companies that collect and use consumer data. (“Protecting Consumer Privacy in an Era of Rapid Change: Recommendations for Businesses and Policymakers,” An FTC Report (Mar. 26, 2012) available at Because the advertising industry is among the heaviest users of such information, these best practices can be useful to the advertising industry –including ad networks, individual advertisers, and all other players in the advertising eco-system—as they develop and maintain processes and systems to operationalize privacy and data security practices within their businesses. In addition to our policymaking role, the Commission takes action against companies—including those in the advertising industry—that do not treat consumer data in accordance with the laws enforced by the agency. For example, we took action against several advertising networks that misrepresented their practices involving consumers’ ability to opt-out from online behavioral advertising. (See press releases, “FTC Puts an End to Tactics of Online Advertising Company That Deceived Consumers Who Wanted to “Opt Out” from Targeted Ads” (Mar. 14, 2011), available at; “Online Advertiser Settles FTC Charges ScanScout Deceptively Used Flash Cookies to Track Consumers Online” (Nov. 8, 2011), available at

In the fast paced world of marketers and agencies where they must implement “privacy by design”, what is the biggest issue confronting the industry?

Well, there are a lot of big issues. One of the biggest issues is the rapid pace of today’s technological advances. Companies are bringing products and services to market as quickly as they can—and the advertising and marketing have to keep up with that pace. As a result, companies may not be employing a methodical process to consider all the privacy and data security issues that could arise with the product or service, or with an advertising or marketing campaign. I think one of the most important elements of Privacy by Design is for companies to take the time to thoroughly examine the consumer information they are collecting, what is being done with that information, and how it is being safeguarded. In our privacy report, we stress the importance of operationalizing these processes, which will help companies conduct these analyses in an efficient and timely fashion.

Continue Reading Privacy and the FTC: Inside Perspective from FTC Commissioner Julie Brill