In 2011 the Copy Advice team produced a range of guidance materials for complementary therapies, in response to a rise in complaints about advertising in this sector. We’ve looked back and highlighted some of the most common pitfalls and explain how you can use these materials to avoid them. For example, using testimonials or endorsements from customers can be a great way of promoting your business, but you can't use endorsements that make claims that you wouldn't be able to make yourself.

Don’t refer to serious medical conditions unless the therapy is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional.

References to serious medical conditions are likely to breach rule 12.2 of the Code – Marketers must not discourage essential treatment for conditions for which medical supervision should be sought. You can find a list of such conditions at the end of this Help Note. Advertisers should not offer specific advice on, diagnosis of or treatment for such conditions unless that advice, diagnosis or treatment is conducted under the supervision of a suitably qualified health professional. For further advice on who is a suitably qualified health professional please read rule 12.2 of the Code.

Ensure that you have evidence for any medical or health claims.

All efficacy claims must be based on strong reputable evidence. If your health claim has not previously been established it is likely to be seen as a breakthrough claim. The ASA and CAP have more stringent evidence requirements for these types of claims; sound data, relevant to the claim made, should be collated to form a body of evidence. This should normally include at least one experimental human study (ideally double-blind and placebo-controlled). The Guidance on Health Therapies & Evidence details other categories of evidence that might form part of a submission and gives specific guidance on the quality of data.

Don’t forget that claims in testimonials are subject to the same evidence requirements.

Claims in testimonials require the same level of evidence as any other claim. That means marketers may not use testimonials to circumvent the Code by making claims in a customer statement that they would not otherwise be permitted to make.

Check Advice Online to see our position on a wide range of therapies.

The CAP website has specific Advice Online entries for a number of therapies. Before creating your ad, check to see if your treatment has an entry, as it will give you a good idea of currently acceptable claims. Topics include well known therapies such as Chiropractics, Homeopathy and Acupuncture.

As always please ring if you have any questions, or send your specific queries, to the CAP Copy Advice Team.

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