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Is That Cool Line Worth a Lawsuit?

Not all ad agencies are created equal when it comes to dealing with complex regulations and ever-changing state and federal laws. Truth be told, some agencies aren’t even adept at following basic FTC guidelines. All agencies, ourselves included, are prone to falling in love with our creative, the sure sell, the big idea. The difference is that some agencies will simply run with the big idea, failing to test it against laws, industry regulations and reality.


Not to be agency drama queens here, but even one line of ill-conceived copy can bring down a company or bring on a lawsuit. Consider the 2009 FTC complaint that was filed against New York Lottery’s Take 5 game campaign. The problem? This copy: “With odds of winning one in nine, all you need is a little bit of luck.” But those were the odds of winning a free game ticket, not an actual cash prize, hence the consumer FTC complaint.

Another example is companies such as search engines Yahoo and Google that were hit with lawsuits for carrying online gambling ads. It was a violation of California state law to run ads for gambling websites, and one California consumer had used these search engines to find those sites, losing $100,000 in the process.

When state lotteries can be hit by the FTC for inaccuracies pointed out by consumers, and gambling sites can be sued for consumer losses, using state law as an excuse, the need for an agency that’s smart and constantly on regulatory watch becomes even more obvious.

We say it’s better not to gamble on an agency that doesn’t have regulatory experience. Safety first, creativity later. It isn’t as much fun, but hey, it prevents lawsuits. Everything in moderation—even imagination.