Advertising Rules that may Surprise you

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

We’ve discussed on this blog before the rules set down by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) which are governed by the Advertising Standards Authority.

Talking to some business owners, it transpires that there is a lack of awareness that various guidelines are in place when it comes to what you can and can’t say in your marketing and advertising material. The fact is, there are numerous rules, and whatever industry you are in, whatever the product or service you are marketing, you will find a code that governs it.

We thought we’d take a look at some of the most common advertising rules in this post. Even if they don’t apply to you, they may serve to surprise you a little due to their stringency, and lead you to look up the codes that are relevant to your own sector.

Advertising Leather Furniture

If you market furniture then you need to take care when making any claims as to its material composition. If you are promoting furniture as leather, then it has to be 100 per cent leather. The key rule for advertisers is not to mislead, so if an item of furniture is anything less than 100 per cent leather, you will need to be upfront about it. If you are describing a product as ‘bonded leather’ then you will need to ensure the composition meets the British Standard of a minimum of 50 per cent leather content.

Any claims you make about the composition of your furniture must be backed up by evidence.

Follow this link for more information.

red leather furniture

If an item of furniture is anything less than 100 per cent leather, you will need to be upfront about it

Advertising Diet Products

This is one of the most contentious and troublesome areas for marketers as there are many rules to abide by. Losing weight is a very emotive issue for consumers, and they will not suffer misleading promotions lightly.

If you are making a claim as to the efficacy of a product or method then you will need to back it up with meticulous testing. Care must be taken with testimonials, as these cannot be used as substantiation unless they are supported by evidence of testing.

When you are marketing diet or weight reduction aids or programmes, you are not permitted to target anyone under the age of 18, and your advertising material must not appeal to this age group either. You must also take great care not to suggest that being underweight is desirable or to exploit vulnerable consumers.

Follow this link for more information.

healthy food

Special attention must be paid when advertising anything diet or nutrition related.

Advertising Food

When making nutritional claims in food advertising, such as ‘low salt’ or ‘low fat’, the rules state that only certain statements are allowed to be used in marketing communications. Any claim that carries the implication that a food has a particular nutritional benefit due to its ingredients has to comply with the Annex of EC Regulation 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims Made on Foods.

You have to be careful in your marketing of food products not to make an implied nutrition claim. By way of an example, a KitKat advert showed Father Christmas reeling from having put on weight from eating too many mince pies. He then turned to a KitKat and the strapline ‘107 calories, just the ticket’, which was considered to imply that a two –finger KitKat was low in energy. The fact was it actually contained over 500 calories per 100 grams.

Follow this link for more information.

Advertising Charities

Promotions that bring advantage to registered charities must clearly state certain information to consumers, including the name of the beneficiary, the nature of the beneficiary and its objectives, how the beneficiary is set to gain and whether there are any limitations as to the contribution being made.

Follow this link for more information.

jar of coins with charity sticker

Promotions that bring advantage to registered charities must clearly state certain information to consumers

It’s clear to see there are many rules and regulations and it may not have occurred to you that whatever you include in your marketing content is subject to the scrutiny of an official body.

The Advertising Standards Authority deals with complaints every day. Whilst not all of these are upheld, the mere fact that an investigation is taking place can prove disruptive for a business. If complaints are upheld then there is a cost involved of removing materials that are in circulation. Better to comply in the first place we say.

If you are worried that your marketing communications are not falling within the Codes, you can request bespoke advice from CAP.


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