'Tis the Season for Holiday Advertising Tips

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By Betty Wang, JD on November 12, 2013 12:48 PM

Small business owners: Need some holiday advertising tips for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, or the rest of the shopping season?

With Thanksgiving just a few weeks away, it's time to prepare for the onslaught of holiday shoppers. In fact, retail giant Walmart has already rolled out its Black Friday ad, Cincinnati's WCPO-TV reports.

You should be thinking ahead too, especially when it comes to spreading the word about your holiday sales. Here are some legal tips for your small business' holiday ads:

Black Friday and Small Business Saturday

For retail storeowners, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday are two of the biggest shopping days of the year. Beware federal and state advertising laws, though. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Making false claims. False advertising refers to any type of promotional ad that may misrepresent any characteristics of a business. Be especially careful with this around the holidays. For example, if you don't have an unlimited supply of a certain item, you may want to say in your advertisements, "while supplies last."
  • Your return policy. Be careful with it comes to your return policy. A general rule of thumb is to make sure it's posted in a place where customers will see it. And in light of the holidays, you may want to consider extending your return period.
  • Unfair advertising. While times may be tough for small businesses, be careful not to embellish or mislead in your ads -- this could lead to unfair advertising issues.

Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a whole other beast that small business owners need to prepare for. The FTC enforces particular rules when it comes to online ads. Here are some you'll want to know by heart:

  • Include the proper disclosures. It's often difficult to tell what an online ad is really depicting. If your online ad might mislead consumers in any way, make sure that proper disclosures are made. For example, is that imitation jewelry or real? Is that a kid-size bike or meant for adults?
  • Be clear and conspicuous. For example, don't make the print too small, and make sure that descriptive words are placed close to the product itself.
  • Don't be misleading or deceptive. Similar to printed ads, online ads also can't be misleading or deceptive. Don't list your bakery as having the "best cookies in the state" unless you have some other evidence to back up that claim. Did a recent baking competition label your cookies as such?

Still unsure whether your ads are legally sound? Consult an experienced business attorney who can help you look them over before the holiday shopping season begins.

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