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Product Review Site And The Impact Of Affiliate Links Scrutinized By NAD Again – Advertising, Marketing & Branding

Like the FTC, NAD has long been interested in the product review
ecosystem and, in particular, in review sites that purport to be
impartial and independent. As NAD has often noted, consumers assign
significant credibility to information provided by review sites
when making their purchasing decisions and, therefore, “when
information obtained from a review site is not impartial and
independent but rather influenced by a commercial relationship, the
reliance consumers place on such information may result in
concomitant harm.”

At issue in its latest case is a site operated by Smile Prep,
challenged by SmileDirectClub, a maker of clear alignment
(invisible braces) products. The site provides information to
consumers about teeth straightening and teeth whitening products
and services and ranks and rates clear aligner products. As
described by NAD, the site, which has affiliate relationships with
several companies whose products are reviewed, presents its content
as editorial, based on “honest, impartial assessments of its
editorial staff and independent from any bias or control from the
clear aligner companies,” as well the unbiased and honest
opinions of consumers with experience using the products.

SDC argued that while Smile Prep presents the reviews as
impartial, they are not: rather, SDC says, “the clear aligner
companies reviewed by Smile Prep are forced to either pay affiliate
link commissions to Smile Prep or be unfairly disadvantaged in
Smile Prep’s rankings and reviews.” Smile Prep countered
by arguing that there is a separation between the editorial staff
doing the rankings and review and the staff handling the affiliate
relationships and that the affiliate partners have no right to
review or approve the site content. Therefore, Smile Prep argued,
the content is true editorial…


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