New guidelines for breast cancer advertising

After a review of nearly 150 pink-ribbon campaigns, After a review of nearly 150 pink-ribbon campaigns, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is publishing guidelines Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, for claims by companies and organizations that the purchase of their product or service will result in a charitable contribution. Photo Credit: iStock

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Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, after a yearlong review of pink-ribbon-themed breast cancer ad campaigns, Thursday will release a set of guidelines for greater transparency in the billion-dollar industry of charitable-cause marketing.

The guidelines take aim at claims by companies and organizations that the purchase of their product or service will result in a charitable contribution -- while often true, some claims don't always hold water and can be manipulated, Schneiderman's office said.

The office reviewed the pink-ribbon campaigns of nearly 150 companies to devise the guidelines. Its review is ongoing.

The guidelines, which are voluntary, recommend that companies display "clearly and prominently key information about each campaign," including the specific amount that will be donated to charity from each purchase.

Companies using ribbons and similar symbols on products "must make clear to consumers if a purchase will trigger a donation or if the symbols are used merely for awareness of a cause," Schneiderman's office said.

The rules are also intended to clarify social media campaigns in which companies promise donations if consumers "like" or "follow" them or their products.

"Consumers who intend to support this cause deserve to know that their purchases do the good promised by the campaigns," Schneiderman said.

The guidelines will be adopted by two of the nation's largest breast cancer charities, "Susan G. Komen For The Cure" and "Breast Cancer Research Foundation," which will include the guidelines in their contracts, Schneiderman said. Representatives for the organizations did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Among the practices the guidelines are intended to thwart: campaigns that promise to give a specified profit from a product to charity, yet continue with the campaign even after the targeted amount has been reached and donations cut off; and those in which a large portion of the donations pay for costs for the campaigns.

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