Managing testimonials properly includes follow-ups
Take note: if a show is airing and testimonials are in it claiming use, the FTC wants those individuals giving the testimonials to still be using the product even if it's a year or two later.
It is a fair consumer expectation that a user whose testimony is seen on TV would still be using the product. If it worked so well why wouldn't they still be using it? If they are not using it then the advertiser should be informed and is expected to stop use of that particular testimonial in any currently running infomercial.
Who is in charge of your testimonial product use follow up? Every advertising/production company should provide their client with a way of ensuring that the testimonial participants utilized in the show are followed up with regularly and tracked regarding their product use. It is an expense that ultimately always pays for itself down the road.
I recommend managing your follow-up strategy as if your testimonial participants were continuing to be a part of an extended longer-term user study or an ongoing market acceptance study. Make the most of your regular monthly follow-ups by having questions prepared that help the advertiser ensure product quality and long-term use.
It is also a good idea to document the time and dates of phone conversations as well as any face-to-face follow-ups. E-mail does allow for easier group management, however, regular back and forth communication is essential.
At minimum the participant should be receiving regular shipments of the product, with regular follow-ups being highly recommended. It is an affordable yet time consuming process that is the responsibility of all industry players.
The FTC states "the advertiser may continue to run the advertisement only so long as he has good reason to believe that the endorser remains a bona fide user of the product."
The cost of ensuring compliance is nothing compared to the cost of being in violation. Being notified by the authorities that they stumbled upon an invalid testimonial currently used in your airing show can be problematic, especially around the short holiday buying season.
Eddie E. Gaut is the founder and lead study coordinator for Infomercial Testimonial Group a division of the DETUAG Testing Centers. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.