Healthcare Marketing: Testimonial Ads Under Scrutiny by FTC

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Many hospitals use testimonial advertising, and rightfully so.  They can be very compelling and very effective. But more care must be given to the type of testimonial used.

The Federal Trade Commission has changed the rules regarding use of endorsements and testimonial advertising. Since 1980, advertisers could use testimonials which describe “unusual” results as long as “results not typical” was disclosed. Now the FTC says testimonial ads must clearly disclose typical results of consumers using the product or service

One area of particular concern for hospitals is using testimonials for weight loss services. “Typical results” can be very difficult to determine due to many patient variables. Other ads where patient testimonials reflect a result that is better than the typical patient would be unacceptable unless the typical results are clearly disclosed.

And the guidelines are not only for traditional advertising, but includes social media, the internet, and television/ radio talk shows.

Traditionally bloggers must disclose if they are compensated by an advertiser. And celebrity testimonials must disclose if they are being compensated for their endorsement.

Testimonial advertising can still be very effective for hospitals but should be used with care when a patient talks about results and outcomes. The results and outcomes cannot be better than the typical patient without proper and clear disclosure.


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