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General Advertising Guidelines

Morningstar prides itself on providing an independent voice to help investors make better-informed decisions. In turn, we seek advertisers that share our customer-centric philosophy.

Our mission to put investors first encompasses all our data, analysis, articles, marketing, promotions, and advertising. To ensure that products and services advertised are relevant, lawful, and credible, we reserve the right to refuse advertising that we believe is not factually accurate or in good taste, employs a sensationalist tone or approach, promotes products or services that are not a good fit for the Morningstar audience, or comes from a business that can’t be identified or verified as legitimate.

These guidelines are to assist our advertisers in creating copy for display advertising, dedicated emails, and other promotional campaigns that will reach Morningstar’s audience on site ads, via email, in rich media, or in our print publications. (Note: Dedicated email campaigns may be subject to an extended approval process.)

Morningstar will likely reject ads making bold claims about unknowable future performance or otherwise promising “get rich quick” or “no-risk” investment strategies. This includes ads that tout highly speculative or illiquid investments (e.g., penny stocks) or promise unusually high investment returns.

Advertisers should avoid language considered sensational, promissory, or strident, such as:

  • Explosive
  • Juiciest
  • Soaring
  • Fast cash
  • Spectacular
  • Cash-spinning
  • Fortune-building
  • Meaty
  • Huge
  • Can't go wrong
  • Risk-free

If an investment firm offers both public and private investments, they may advertise only those investments that are publicly traded, or where the underlying securities in the strategy are publicly traded (such as stock and bond separately managed accounts). There may be exceptions made for private investment firms if they meet the following criteria:

  • Have a 3–5-year track record.
  • Are running creative based on educating viewers and not pushing a specific private investment vehicle.
  • Creative must be approved by Morningstar. If any new creatives are rotated in via third party ad servers after the campaign has started, Morningstar must also vet those units.
  • Even if these criteria are met, Morningstar reserves the right to not accept any creative that we feel may diminish our brand or be detrimental to our clients.

Further, Morningstar reserves the right to refuse advertising from investment sites, asset managers, model providers, and other entities lacking explanations about the risks involved with their investment approach, or from sites whose legitimacy cannot be verified. If you are not sure if you meet these criteria, we encourage you to reach out to your Sales Director for further evaluation.

Morningstar bases its principles on FINRA guidelines for member firms and as such, we evaluate the following factors: advertisements that are so aggressive and demeaning to competitors, and in such questionable taste, as to potentially undermine investor trust and confidence in the industry as a whole. Such advertisements do not serve the interests of investors or the industry, and we expect our clients to take a more constructive and informative approach to their advertising.

FINRA typically wants advertisements to be fair and balanced. In terms of financials—what are the rewards and what are the risks of investing in a certain type of product or service?

We have a duty to manage investor expectations about the risks and rewards of investing. Advertisements that mislead or confuse investors about the risks and rewards of investing, or that attempt to incite a trading frenzy, harm the investing public, or undermine investor confidence in the integrity of the markets will not be accepted by Morningstar.

Advertisements will be considered on a case-by-case basis. We may accept one campaign while rejecting or requesting revisions on another campaign from the same advertiser. We may also accept some portions of a campaign while requesting revisions to other pieces of the same campaign. Additional Guidelines:

  • Morningstar has the right to refuse advertising that, in Morningstar’s opinion, is not factually accurate or in good taste.
  • Morningstar will not permit at any time the placement of any advertising for illegal or objectionable products.
  • Advertising must not contain or link to fraudulent, provocative, deceptive, or offensive material, including material that misrepresents, ridicules, or attacks an individual or group based on age, color, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Advertising promoting gambling, alcohol, illegal narcotics, firearms, ammunition, fireworks, tobacco and materials, religion, politics, and products and adult services related to pornography is not allowed. inventory is sold site-direct only. Any inventory represented via a programmatic or network exchange is fraudulent. Morningstar has the right to refuse any pixels attached to ad tags that may block impressions, collect personal data (PII), or cause impression discrepancies larger than 10%.

Any creative that includes Morningstar intellectual property, including but not limited to the Morningstar Rating, Morningstar Category averages and rankings, Morningstar Style Box, Morningstar qualitative analysis, or Sustainability ratings and rankings requires a Morningstar® Essentials™ license and/or Morningstar Data license and is subject to Essentials and/or data usage guidelines, terms, and approvals.