Ad Agencies Cool On FTC "Green Marketing" Guideline Changes

Ad agencies have asked the Federal Trade Commission to take its time and gather more information before making any changes to its guidelines for so-called "green marketing."

 The commission is trying to decide whether the increase in marketing claims of environmental-friendliness need to be matched by restrictions on certain types of claims or third-party substantiation.

 According to a copy of a joint filing at the FTC by advertising trade associations the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), the American Advertising Federation (AAF), and the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), argue that the FTC should not rush to judgment because 1) Existing guidelines on truth and accuracy in environmental claims are already effective; 2) self-regulation already "ensures that environmental claims are not deceptive and must be substantiated; and 3) changes could cause confusion that could chill "valuable advertising messages."

 They also argue that there is enough scientific uncertainty about how to characterize certain claims.

 "While there is an increasing amount of media and public attention to environmental claims and it is a dynamic and fast-moving subject area," they tell the commission, "we encourage the FTC not to take any action that would stifle the ability or the interest of a company to make positive steps in improving the environment or that would restrict a company’s ability to market and communicate its activities in this area.

 The groups want the commission instead to convent a workshop where they can testify and provide "further guidance."

 The FTC's so-called "Green Guides" were last updated in 1998. They were not scheduled for review until 2009, but the commission decided to start now, citing the rise in "green" marketing. Initial comments were due Monday (Feb. 11).

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.