Ads in ASHA Publications: A Study in Priorities Many professionals in health-related fields rely on association publications for information of various types—from feature articles to readers’ letters to paid advertisements. On this last front, members occasionally question ASHA about the propriety of some publication advertisements. Some members ask why we accept advertising at all, while others tell us ... From My Perspective
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From My Perspective  |   November 01, 2007
Ads in ASHA Publications: A Study in Priorities
Author Notes
  • Rick Henderson, director of marketing and sales, can be reached at rhenderson@asha.org.
    Rick Henderson, director of marketing and sales, can be reached at rhenderson@asha.org.×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / From My Perspective
From My Perspective   |   November 01, 2007
Ads in ASHA Publications: A Study in Priorities
The ASHA Leader, November 2007, Vol. 12, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.12162007.20
The ASHA Leader, November 2007, Vol. 12, 20-21. doi:10.1044/leader.FMP.12162007.20
Many professionals in health-related fields rely on association publications for information of various types—from feature articles to readers’ letters to paid advertisements. On this last front, members occasionally question ASHA about the propriety of some publication advertisements. Some members ask why we accept advertising at all, while others tell us that ads should meet the same standards of evidence that are being promoted in evidence-based practice. We believe that members deserve a clearer perspective on ASHA’s advertising standards and the role of advertising in our publications.
Advertisements benefit three entities—association publications, advertisers, and members. The professions also benefit from the free flow of information and continuous innovation that spurs the market toward better and more effective applications. The benefits include the following:
  • For publications, advertising defrays costs so less dues money is needed to produce this member benefit. The publisher’s goal is to maintain a balance between editorial and advertising, and to monitor the amount of advertising so that it does not compromise the publication’s mission of delivering valuable information to members.

  • For advertisers, an ad placement in an association publication reaches those of you who may have a particular interest in the product or service. The advertiser uses the space to announce the product, explain the benefits, and provide details.

  • For members, advertising provides information about new or established products and services. The ad raises your awareness and informs you about the product. It’s up to you to decide which products will serve you best.

Striving for Balance
According to a recent ASHA survey, many members rely on advertisements they see in The ASHA Leader. A 2006 readership survey of ASHA members by Stratton Research showed that 48% of respondents indicated that they regularly find out about new professional products through ads in The Leader. The key question is how ASHA balances the readers’ need to know against the possibility that some advertisers may promote unsubstantiated products or services that potentially could mislead readers and harm clients.
ASHA vets all ads before publication. The ads are reviewed by clinical practices staff in speech-language pathology and audiology to determine if they are appropriate for use in ASHA publications. Reviewers identify ads with claims of effectiveness that cannot be supported. As a result, some ads are rejected, some are returned for text revision, and some companies are asked for research references. ASHA reviewers do not attempt, however, to qualify the research behind claims, but only confirm that research is present and applicable to the advertised claims and accessible to readers. This policy reflects ASHA’s overall position of no product review or endorsement. Does ASHA publish ads that are inconsistent with our professional standards? The answer is an unequivocal NO.
Advertisers should be prepared to supply scientific and technical information related to product claims, but readers should also recognize that advertisers’ purpose is to sell products or advance a brand. So although evidence-based practice is critical to the advancement of clinical practice, a lack of peer-reviewed or evidence-based data to support a product does not necessarily mean that the product is not effective. If data do not exist, the claim remains an unknown and is ripe for further study. Practitioners are expected to review available data, assess the research, and form their own opinions on whether to purchase an advertiser’s product or service.
ASHA could adopt even stricter advertising standards, but other organizations’ attempts to license or legally enforce an ethical code for advertising often violate free speech guarantees and are challenged, according to The New York Times. The government has affirmed that competition—which includes advertising—is a basic tenet of the U.S. economy that helps ensure that consumers’ needs are heard.
A review of the advertising policies of other organizations such as the American Medical Association demonstrate that ASHA’s advertising standards are aligned with some of the most stringent policies of medical publications (Tuffs, 2004). Additionally, ASHA’s policies are regularly scrutinized and updated to protect readers and prevent deceptive advertising. ASHA will reject ads proven as discriminatory, unethical, or unscrupulous and continue to ask advertisers for detailed references to make their ads more meaningful and credible to ASHA members.
Members should also trust the market to weed out advertising for products and services that are not effective or fully supported. Advertisers depend on repeat buys and word-of-mouth referrals, and market forces will correct for customer dissatisfaction. As advertising mogul and innovator Leo Burnett once said, “Dishonesty in advertising has proved very unprofitable.”
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November 2007
Volume 12, Issue 16