Under the Consumer Protection Act, marketing may not offend standards of decency. This means that an advertisement must not contain messages that violate the principles and values commonly accepted in society. For example, using violence in an advertisement is not acceptable.
Discrimination in advertising is prohibited
Advertising must not reinforce discriminatory attitudes that are already found in society. Discriminatory advertising means advertisements in which a person or group is subjugated, degraded or insulted.
Different cultures and ethnic groups must be presented as equals. For example, presenting genders in a demeaning or sexist manner is a violation of good practices.
Using religious symbols in marketing raises strong emotions almost without exception, and taking this into account in a multicultural society is important. Judicious consideration is also needed before using religious expressions.
Use of violence in advertising
Marketing is one way of conveying societal values. Violent behaviour and damaging another person’s property are not considered acceptable, which is why using violence for effect in advertising is a violation of good practice.
Humour does not make violence any more acceptable. On the contrary: a humorous attitude may trivialise the reprehensible nature of violence and create an image of an acceptable behavioural model.
An advertisement with a threatening and frightening general mood may provoke anxiety in the same way as actual violence. An advertisement of this type may violate good practice, especially if it contains elements that are frightening to children and may be seen by children, even if it is not directly targeted at them.
Behaviour and safety in advertisements
Advertisements shape the underlying values of society and may gradually make undesirable behaviour acceptable and even desirable.
In particular, indifference to safety in an advertisement may lead to serious incidents if consumers imitate the behaviour shown in it.
If the safety regulations of products and services are ignored in an advertisement, it usually violates good practice.
Outdoor advertising uses public space
When deciding if marketing violates good practice, attention is also be paid to the medium used. Public space is used in outdoor advertising, which means that you cannot avoid it. This is why more stringent criteria for good practice may be applied to advertisements displayed outdoors on boards, in display windows or on means of transport.
When designing advertisements, the fact that everyone has the right to a peaceful living environment must be taken into account. Particular attention should be paid to ensuring that children do not come across advertisements that are not suitable for their age and level of development.
Children as targets for marketing
Children’s best interests must be taken into consideration in marketing. The capacity for critical thinking and life experience of underaged consumers are usually still developing. Stricter criteria are applied to assessing marketing that targets children than ordinary marketing, as children are more susceptible to the effects of marketing than adults.
Advertisers must respect children’s gullibility and inexperience. This is why advertisements should not contain inappropriate behavioural models or promises that children’s lives will become better if they buy the right products. Directly exhorting children to buy products is also prohibited.
As parents are responsible for bringing up their children, they have the right to make decisions about the family’s purchases without being put under pressure to buy goods because their children have been influenced unduly.
Children in advertisements
Child actors may be used in advertisements if the child is a natural part of the environment presented in the advertisement, or their presence is necessary to demonstrate the use of the advertised product.
However, children in advertisements may not directly exhort consumers to buy a product.
The Consumer Ombudsman supervises compliance with marketing legislation
The Consumer Ombudsman supervises compliance with the Consumer Protection Act and other laws passed to protect consumers. Particular attention is paid to ensuring that marketing activities, contractual terms, and debt collection are compliant with legislation.
The Council of Ethics in Advertising issues statements on whether or not marketing violates good practice. While the Consumer Ombudsman may use the Council’s statements to support the supervisory work, the guidelines are based on legislation.