Deceptive Ad Trends to Be Wary of in 2023
TruthInAdvertising.org 16 January 2023
Consumers have much to watch out for in terms of deceptive advertising trends in 2023, even as regulatory efforts seek to curb them. Here are just five TINA.org will be keeping an eye on this year.
 
Greenwashing 
 
The FTC’s Green Guides, which provide guidance on environmental marketing claims, have not been revised since 2012. That could change this year. In December, the FTC announced that it is seeking public comment on potential updates and changes to its Green Guides. There are a few specific issues that the FTC is asking stakeholders to weigh in on, including carbon offsets and climate change, recyclable claims for products that are ultimately not recycled, and whether the agency should define the terms “organic” and “sustainable” after declining to do so in 2012. Any modifications to the Green Guides are certain to have an effect on which advertisers get added to TINA.org’s ever-growing list of companies accused of greenwashing.
 
SAM.gov imposters
 
The FTC has also proposed a rule that would allow the agency to recover money from government and business imposters. Consumers have reported losing more than $2 billion to such imposter scams in the last five years. In a comment filed in December in support of the proposed rule, TINA.org noted a trend of private, for-profit companies posing as the System for Award Management (SAM.gov), an official website of the U.S. government, in order to trick consumers into paying hundreds to thousands of dollars for services that the federal government offers for free. These firms design their websites to look like the government website – including through the use of the official SAM.gov logo and/or other government seals, a practice that would be prohibited under the FTC’s rule. TINA.org has also tracked class-action lawsuits against alleged government imposters.
 
Celebrities promoting unregulated assets
 
Tom Brady. Shaquille O’Neal. Stephen Curry. Naomi Osaka. David Ortiz. Larry David. What do all of these celebrities have in common? They’re all defendants in class-action lawsuits seeking to hold them accountable for their alleged role in the FTX meltdown. Specifically, the complaints accuse the celebrities of failing to disclose the nature, scope and amount of compensation they received in exchange for promoting the now-bankrupt crypto exchange, in violation of Florida state securities laws. The FTX collapse provides a lesson for both consumers and the celebrities who endorsed the trading platform, whose former CEO, Sam Bankman-Fried, faces multiple criminal and civil charges. For consumers, it’s that they should take any investment advice from celebrities, especially in the unregulated crypto or NFT space, with a grain of salt. For celebrities, it’s that maybe they should think twice about promoting digital assets if they’re not an expert.
 
Shrinkflation 
 
Shrinkflation happens when a product (typically a grocery store item) gets smaller in size, weight or quantity with no change in price or, worse, a price increase. Essentially, it’s paying the same or more for less. The consumer advocacy website mouseprint.org has been helping to spread the word about shrinkflation for years but with high inflation the number of companies shrinking their products but not their prices continues to grow. And while 54 percent of U.S. adults in August said they had seen, read or heard something about shrinkflation, that means 46 percent of adults had not.
 
Bypassing regulators
 
In 2022, TINA.org wrote about three companies, including two MLMs, using special characters instead of letters to spell terms, in an apparent effort to bypass regulators on the hunt for such terms on the internet– for example, spelling COVID “CO^|D.” Regulators are increasingly using technology to achieve their goals, which include rooting out false health claims. And deceptive marketers are always trying to find ways to avoid detection online. Expect to see more of this cat-and-mouse game in 2023.
To read about last year’s deceptive ad trends, click here.
 
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