Advertising is everywhere. Each and every day we see countless television commercials, magazine ads, billboards, posters, and more – all meant to convince us to buy one product or another. Something many people don’t consider, however, are the laws and regulations that govern the ways in which companies may or may not legally advertise. Attorneys who work in advertising law are behind the scenes, providing guidance through law firms or in-house counsel and making sure that companies play by the rules when it comes to advertising legally and ethically. Is a career in advertising law right for you?
Where do advertising laws come from?
In the United States, most marketing and advertising law is governed through rules and regulations set forth by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). These regulations aim to keep advertising fair and truthful, and can affect the way companies operate in a variety of ways. For example, FTC regulations may govern the way a company labels its products, how it conducts its public advertising campaigns, and any claims it may make as to the effectiveness of its products. In fact, the FTC requires that claims in advertising must be “evidence-based.” In other words, advertising cannot be false or deceptive.
These regulations apply to advertising and marketing tactics across all mediums, including online and telemarketing campaigns. They also apply to general product claims, as well as health-specific claims about a product’s effectiveness.
What do advertising lawyers do?
Most attorneys who pursue a career in advertising law will work alongside companies, guiding and advising them to ensure that they are operating within advertising regulations at all times. Advertising lawyers must have thorough knowledge and understanding of advertising rules and regulations, as well as strong legal research skills to explore new issues as they arise. These lawyers review product labels, advertisements, and claims made by companies and suggest adjustments as necessary. It is very important to have an understanding of what types of claims may violate the “truthfulness” requirements of the FTC and other advertising laws.
Of course, not all lawyers who work with advertising regulations are on the companies’ side. The other side of the equation is enforcement – attorneys who work to bring either civil or criminal penalties against companies who violate advertising laws. While it may be difficult to find a career enforcing advertising laws specifically, many careers with regulatory boards or the criminal justice system will involve advertising law cases.
Where do advertising lawyers work?
When it comes to job placement, there are several options for attorneys wishing to pursue a career in advertising law. Some private law firms have advertising law departments, and hire lawyers to focus specifically on advertising and marketing law. These lawyers will work with a variety of clients (usually companies) to oversee their advertising processes and offer counsel. Unfortunately, these positions are still somewhat rare – most smaller law firms do not offer advertising law exclusively. For those looking to work in advertising law at a firm, it is best to search in the few major cities that tend to offer these kinds of careers – such as New York or Washington DC.
A more common opportunity for advertising lawyers is to work as in-house counsel at a major company. Many companies hire lawyers specifically to oversee their advertising and marketing strategies, and with larger companies the work is plentiful. These jobs can be found nationwide. The only downside for job seekers may be that working for the same client can begin to feel monotonous to some. Others find the stable work environment – and typically higher pay rate – to be quite enjoyable.
Finally, for those who wish to work in regulation or enforcement of advertising law, still more options are available. One route would be to work for a government or regulatory agency, such as the FTC itself. For those interested in criminal law, some Attorney General and State Attorney’s offices have specific departments dedicated to consumer and advertising issues. These jobs can be quite exciting, though the downside is that the pay rate tends to be lower than working in a law firm or in-house at a company.
How can law students prepare for a career in advertising law?
With the growth of technology, there are more ways to communicate with consumers each and every day – and that means more and more advertising. The good news is, this also means that advertising law continues to be a growing field. Many law schools recognize this and offer special programs related to consumer or advertising law. Interested students should inquire further with their individual school.
Even if an advertising law program is not available, many schools offer courses in advertising law and related issues. For example, Harvard Law School’s Advertising Law Course covers the following: “legal regulation of advertising in the United States, with some comparison to other countries. Private causes of action by consumers and competitors, state attorneys general, and the Federal Trade Commission all form part of the law of advertising. Topics will include falsity, substantiation, surveys, product placement, “green” marketing claims, disclosures and disclaimers, and First Amendment aspects of advertising regulation.”
Other than Advertising Law itself, there are some other related courses that may be useful to students wishing to pursue a future in advertising law. Suggested courses include:
- Intellectual Property
- Administrative Law
- Internet Law
- Litigation courses
Advertising Law is a growing field involving the oversight, and enforcement, of advertising regulations in the United States. Those interested in pursuing a career as an advertising lawyer have many options available, and it is never too early to begin taking the necessary courses in law school to prepare. As long as advertisements continue to dominate the world around us, advertising lawyers will be in high demand.