Banner Ads – Big trouble can come in small packages

Who would guess that a little banner ad could do so much damage? After all, these advertisements are short, sweet and designed to get consumers to click to the advertiser’s website. They’re intended to attract and link; a starting point and not the final destination.

However, it’s for this exact reason insurance distributors can find themselves in trouble if their banner advertisements use misleading language. Recently, Minnesota issued a consent order to a non-resident agency ordering them to cease and desist using banner ads which stated “Guaranteed 8% Growth with Income for Life.” While there was no fine assessed in this instance, as the ads had been removed prior to any communication from the DOI, it is still significant to note that banner ads are being watched and flagged by regulators.

Another point that I found interesting was the fact that the order specifically acknowledged the banner ad was “…linked to a site with additional information and disclosures.” Many times, insurance distributors rely on the fact that there is another piece of information coming – that once they just click the link, the consumer will get that full picture. However, in this case, it wasn’t sufficient. Disclosures can’t fix misleading ads and this is just another example of how trying to use disclosure to remedy the problematic language can lead to trouble.

Can banner ads still be an effective marketing tool while remaining compliant? Absolutely! The easiest way to do this is by making sure each ad is clear on what is being discussed – insurance – and those promissory, inaccurate and/or misleading claims are not being made.

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