FTC Advertising Enforcement

(1422 Ratings)

Produced on: January 23, 2015

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 92 minutes
Difficulty Intermediate

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the primary regulatory body for advertising and marketing activities in the US. Section 5 of the FTC Act protects consumers against deceptive or unfair advertising and marketing practices, but determining what the FTC considers “unfair” or “deceptive” can sometimes be a challenge. This program presented by Christie Grymes Thompson, Kelley Drye’s chair of Advertising and Marketing and Consumer Products Safety practice groups, explores the FTC’s advertising enforcement history and provides insight into the Commission’s recent and future enforcement priorities. It also looks at the FTC’s endorsement guidelines, which have broad implications for social media, as well as their “Green Guides,” the legal framework for making claims relating to green seals and logos, recyclable and recycled products, sustainability initiatives, organic textiles and food products, etc. 


Learning Objectives:

I.     Gain an understanding of Section 5 of the FTC Act, which governs advertising and marketing practices

II.    Learn about claim substantiation requirements for both objective and subjective claims

III.   Become aware of your disclosure obligations

IV.   Understand what the FTC considers a comparison

V.    Grasp what is covered in the FTC’s endorsement and green guides


Christie Grymes Thompson

Kelley Drye & Warren LLP

Christie Grymes Thompson is a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C. office and chair of the Advertising and Marketing and Consumer Product Safety practice groups. She focuses her practice on consumer protection matters, including advertising, product safety, competitor challenges, and promotions. She counsels clients on all aspects of regulatory compliance, with a focus on statutes and regulations enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and state Attorneys General. Ranked nationally as a leading practitioner in the Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory area by Chambers USA, sources tell Chambers that Ms. Thompson has “outstanding technical industry knowledge” and is “practical, responsive, efficient, and fun to work with.”


Ms. Thompson advises national advertisers and consumer products manufacturers on how to keep regulators, competitors, and consumers from knocking on their door with a legal challenge and, if they do knock, she helps them answer and defend the marketing claims at issue. To that end, she reviews advertisements and marketing materials for all media, including television, print, Internet and telephone, to determine compliance with relevant regulations and the risk of challenge. In the event of an inquiry or complaint, Ms. Thompson represents clients before federal and state law enforcement agencies, self-regulatory bodies, and in court on matters involving claim substantiation, pricing practices, green marketing, cause marketing campaigns, financial offers, and mobile disclosures, among others. Ms. Thompson also initiates challenges to competitors’ advertising before the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and in federal court under the Lanham Act to help clients protect their brands and position in the marketplace.


From a product safety standpoint, Ms. Thompson advises clients to ensure that products on the market meet applicable safety standards, including complying with the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA), the Consumer Product Safety Act (CPSA), the Federal Hazardous Substances Act (CPSA), the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (VGBA), and the Flammable Fabrics Act (FFA). This work includes developing product safety compliance programs, analyzing potential reporting obligations, coordinating with other parties in the distribution chain, implementing product recalls, defending against enforcement and penalty proceedings with the CPSC, and responding to Freedom of Information Act requests Ms. Thompson helps companies identify and resolve potential product safety issues confidentially before they escalate and have the potential to draw scrutiny from regulators and negative publicity.


Representative Experience


Advertising Challenges

  • Represented a major U.S. department store in an FTC investigation involving the alleged mislabeling of fur clothing as “faux fur.” Successfully demonstrated that the client relied in good faith on a third party’s representations and persuaded the staff to close the matter without formal action.
  • Represented a major retailer in settlement with the FTC regarding the Textile Act and references to bamboo fibers. Citing an infrequently-used provision of the FTC Act, the FTC relied on a synopsis of previous cases to seek civil penalties.
  • Represented a national retailer in an investigation by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission regarding compliance with the Fur Products Labeling Act. Case closed by the staff without formal action.
  • Represented Bissell Homecare, Inc. in a Lanham Act case challenging comparative superiority claims made by Hoover in connection with its SteamVac products.
  • Represented Nextel – now Sprint – in a network challenge followed by two Lanham Act cases challenging implied superiority and establishment claims made by Verizon Wireless in connection with a new product launch.
  • Represented Bissell Homecare, Inc. in the appeal to the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) of an NAD decision in which the NAD ruled that Hoover had provided reliable testing that could substantiate the claim that Hoover’s SteamVac Agility “Out Cleans Bissell and All Other Leading Brands.” The NARB determined that Hoover’s testing did not demonstrate a meaningful difference between Hoover and Bissell products, and therefore that Hoover did not meet the burden of demonstrating that its testing demonstrated superiority.
  • Represented Dell in litigation initiated by the Attorney General of the State of New York (Andrew Cuomo) alleging that the company violated Sections 349 and 350 of NY’s General Business Law and Section 63(12) of NY’s Executive Law in connection with the company’s financing promotions, service contract and warranty offers, and rebate fulfillment. Negotiated a settlement providing for injunctive relief and restitution on terms that were previously agreed to with the remaining 49 state Attorneys General.
  • Represented Match.com before the NAD in a case challenging Yahoo! Personals’ use of the “Find better first dates, more second dates,” and “At Yahoo! Personals, finding great people to date is easier” claims. The NAD found that the “Find better first dates…” claim is expressively comparative, unsupported by the record, and outside the realm of puffery, and also concluded that the “… finding great people to date…” claim is an objectively provable claim that is unsupported by the record and is not puffery. Yahoo! Personals discontinued both advertising claims.
  • Represented a seller of travel services in an investigation conducted by the District of Columbia Attorney General’s Office alleging inadequate disclosures.
  • Represented the American Chemistry Council before the NAD in a case challenging advertising claims made by Born Free baby bottles. The claims at issue attempted to exploit a minority of scientific opinion in the sale of baby bottles that do not contain bisphenol-A. The NAD agreed that the Born Free claims were unsubstantiated and recommended that they be discontinued.
  • Represented Bentley Meyers International Ltd., a national marketer of nutritional supplements, in litigation filed by the Department of Justice alleging violations of a prior FTC order.


Commercial Co-Ventures and Charitable Promotions

  • Represented Converse in structuring and advertising a promotion for the (RED) Campaign, in which a portion of proceeds from the sale of certain sneakers are donated to The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
  • Represented Nike in structuring and advertising a promotion in which a portion of the proceeds from specially marked products go to ninemillion.org., a global campaign founded by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to bring education and sport programs to the world’s refugee youth.
  • Represented NetFlix in structuring and advertising a promotion to benefit Feeding America.
  • Represented 3M in structuring promotions to benefit The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and City of Hope.
  • Represented Dell in structuring promotions to benefit The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and The Global Fund to fight AIDS in Africa.


Consumer Product Safety

  • Represented a Fortune 100 appliance manufacturer to negotiate civil penalty settlement with CPSC.
  • Represented a national department store to conduct a recall and settle a civil penalty investigation involving drawstrings in children’s clothing.
  • Advise a trade association of lawn and garden equipment manufacturers and its members on various matters before the CPSC, including tracking standards development activity.
  • Advise Fortune 100 manufacturer of fire and security alarm systems product safety compliance programs, evaluation of potential CPSC reporting obligations, recalls, and responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
  • Represent manufacturer of electrical products and tools to develop product safety compliance program and to evaluate potential CPSC reporting obligations.
  • Advise retailers of children’s products to establish vendor protocols for compliance issues.
  • Represent publishing company regarding compliance issues.
  • Advise international conglomerate regarding quality control procedures for manufacturing and develop product safety compliance program.
  • Coordinated efforts on behalf of a children’s toys manufacturer to release imported goods detained by the CPSC and CBP at the Commercial Targeting Analysis Center.
  • Represented equipment manufacturer to respond to Letters of Advice issued by the CPSC staff.
  • Represented manufacturer of outdoor recreational equipment in filing precautionary report to the CPSC in coordination with supplier.
  • Represented manufacturers, distributors and retailers in civil penalty investigations that the CPSC staff closed without the issuance of a penalty.
  • Represented manufacturers, distributors and retailers in the recall of millions of products, including toys and games, home appliances, children’s clothing, lighting, air filtration systems, sporting goods, and fire and security alarm systems.
  • Filed comments on behalf of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute in a regulation review proceeding.


Memberships & Associations

  • American Bar Association, Section of Antitrust Law, Membership and Diversity Committee; vice chair
  • American Bar Association, Section of Antitrust Law, Nominating Committee, member
  • American Bar Association, Section of Antitrust Law, Consumer Protection Committee, former chair
  • American Bar Association, Section of Antitrust Law, Long Range Planning Committee, former vice chair


Community Activities

  • Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, National Selection Committee, Alumni Advisory Board


Honors & Awards

  • Selected as one of The Best Lawyers in America in the Advertising Law area, 2012-2015.
  • Ranked nationally as a leading practitioner in the Advertising: Transactional & Regulatory area by Chambers USA, 2011-2014.
  • Recognized as a leading attorney in Media and Advertising practice area by Washington D.C. Super Lawyers, 2014.
  • Recommended in US Legal 500 for her work in the Marketing & Advertising area, 2012-2014.
  • Named one of SmartCEO magazine's "Washington Legal Elite," 2007.


Pro Bono

  • Represents The Nature Conservancy on charitable promotions and contractual relationships with vendors and marketing partners.


John B.

Excellent presentation.

Nancy S.

Excellent content and presentation skills.

David M.

Informative presentation and effective, clear instructor.

Elaine W.

Great CLE!

Bethanne H.

Very good.

Jeffery D.

very practical and helpful examples

Wendie W.

Very good presentation and illustrations.

Kimberley U.

Great use of examples by presenter

Aaron B.

Excellent presentation and great use of examples.

tim r.

The best speaker I've experienced on Lawline.

Lawrence R.

The presenter provided materials and case analysis in support of the points discussed.

Susan P.

good selection of advertisements as a teaching tool

David B.

The speaker was one of the best I have heard. Excellent program. David Ballard

Marc B.

One of the best Lawline courses I've taken.

Joseph V.


Cellestine A.

I like the subject and the way it was presented.

Mike W.

entertaining and informative!

Katherine A.

Excellent - great information and interesting, great use of real examples and great speaker. Thanks!

William B.

Good overview of topic

Chukwuka O.

Great Instructor!

Robert M.

Suprisingly Interesting! I especially liked the advertising examples which added to my understanding.

Angela M.

One of my favorite speakers!

Rommel M.


Jeffrey V.

Useful and interesting

Joseph M.

Christie is a great speaker. Loved this program!!

Otto M.

Great overall presentaion

Rebecca G.

Good speaker, interesting subject matter.


good content

James M.

Speaker was engaging and provided a lot information.


Great materials and detailed explanations.

Edward K.

Fascinating and fun topic

Christopher L.

The use of specific examples helped clarify the points of the presentation

Jennifer R.


Paul F.

Excellent job!

Katie P.

Excellent overview, great examples, very interesting!

Michael T.

Informative, & enjoyable. Ms. Thompson was engaging, & seemed - still - to like the topic.

Michelle K.

This was a great course. This is not a topic I thought I would be interested in, but I found it extremely interesting and really enjoyed her examples.

Peter S.

Informative presentation and one to be recommended!

Matthew L.

Excellent seminar. Clear, organized, informative and well-presented.

Sol C.

Excellent presentation!

Judith P.

Ms. Thompson does an excellent job presenting the major issues. Organized, active, but not rushed, good job.

Lynn H.

very interesting program

Lisa L.

Great ending! Never laughed out loud with genuine humor at a CLE before now.

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