Every day we are inundated with countless advertisements. TV ads, radio ads, internet ads, billboard ads. But have you stopped to think, what exactly qualifies as an advertisement? Luckily for us, the National Advertising Division (“NAD”) recently issued a decision that sheds some light on exactly how broad agencies monitoring the advertising industry view “advertising.”

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACT standardized testing organization published, on its website, that test centers may “occasionally” cancel tests due to unforeseen circumstances. Of course, due to the pandemic, ACT testing would likely, and presumably has been, cancelled far more than just “occasionally.” As a result, the NAD recommended that ACT update its website to provide more specifics on the possibility of cancellations, provide information on what a test taker should do if the test is cancelled, and provide specifics on what test centers may or may not be open during the pandemic.

But what does information regarding how often a test may be cancelled have to do with advertising? According to the NAD, advertising can be as broad to include any messaging that is meant to obtain a sale or some other form of commercial transaction. Because the messages pertaining to how often tests are administered are meant to induce a consumer to register for a test, the NAD determined that such communications do, indeed, fall into the category of advertisements. So, next time you are publishing a message, on a website or otherwise, give some thought as to whether it could be interpreted to be done for the purpose of obtaining a sale. If it is, do your best to include sufficient, clear information, especially in this time of COVID-19 uncertainty.