3 Things You Shouldn't Put In Your Ads

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on April 29, 2015 12:55 PM

Advertising is tricky business. The right words could bring lots of money into your business. The wrong words could hurt your business' reputation and bottom line.

Budweiser is learning that the hard way. As part of its "Up for Whatever" campaign, Budweiser printed, "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night" on its beer bottles. Social media erupted in protest over the perceived encouragement of date rape.

As a small business owner, you should tread carefully when designing your advertisements. Here are 3 things you should not put in your ads:

1. Other People's Image Without Their Permission

If you plan on putting anybody's face on your ad, make sure you have their permission. Using a person's image without permission for a commercial purpose is a violation of their right to publicity, and you may be sued for appropriation of likeness.

For example, Jennifer Love Hewitt sued the company Slim Spray after she found that they used a picture of her in their ads without her permission. If you do plan to use someone's image, get their permission in writing to protect your business later on.

2. False Claims

According to the Federal Trade Commission, ads must be truthful and non-deceptive. If you make a claim on your ad, you better have evidence to back it up.

Nutella was sued for deceptive advertising after it claimed that the product was "healthy" and "part of a balanced meal." Actually, Nutella has high sugar and fat content. Because of the lawsuit, Nutella has dropped the health claim on its ads and agreed to pay a $3 million settlement.

3. Lies About Your Competitor

While you can mention competitors in your ads to distinguish your business from theirs, make sure that everything in your ad is true. False claims or statements about your competitor can get you sued for defamation. If your defamatory statements cause a competitor to lose customers you may be liable for the loss in revenue. In some states, you may even be liable for the lost of reputation the other business suffered

Before you publish an ad, if you have any doubts at all, have an experienced business attorney review the ads for possible legal violations first.

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