Magazines were given instructions on telling apart advertisements and editorial content

The Finnish Periodical Publishers’ Association has published a code of conduct on how magazines should ensure the recognisability of advertising. The Consumer Ombudsman has commented on this code and finds it welcome.

In 2013, the Consumer Ombudsman and the Finnish Periodical Publishers’ Association negotiated on advertorials, or advertisements that resemble editorial content. Advertorials resemble the rest of the magazine’s articles in terms of layout, illustrations and content. The only reference to advertising might be the text “notice” or “advertorial” in the upper corner of the page.

According to the Consumer Protection Act, marketing must clearly show its commercial purpose and the party on whose behalf it is carried out. However, this line has not always been clear when it comes to advertorials. They can affect the consumer’s decision-making in inappropriate ways if the consumer believes them to be unbiased magazine articles that can be trusted more than advertisements.

The Finnish Periodical Publishers’ Association has now met the Consumer Ombudsman’s expectations and published a code of conduct on the recognisability of advertising. The code stresses that the reader must always be able to tell apart editorial content and advertising. If an advertisement resembles the magazine’s editorial content, it must include the text “advertisement” in a clearly visible manner.

The rules also state that the magazine’s articles should not contain hidden advertising. If a part of the magazine’s contents has been produced in co-operation with a company, this must be clearly stated to the reader. The partner’s logo alone is not adequate. The goal is that the reader can tell apart marketing from the rest of the content without special familiarisation.

The consumer’s right to recognise advertising is one of the theses published by the Consumer Ombudsman in October 2013. The Consumer Ombudsman finds it desirable that other publications in addition to magazine’s would introduce similar codes of conduct.

In addition to advertorials, the Consumer Ombudsman has taken special notice of blog advertising. The guideline published in November 2013 stresses that companies marketing through blogs and professional bloggers must take into consideration the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act on the recognisability of advertising.

Read more:
The Finnish Periodical Publishers’ Association’s code of conduct on the recognisability of advertising (in finnish)
Consumer Ombudsman monitors the use of advertorials: Advertising must always be recognizable, FCCA’s press release on 26/6/2013
The theses of the Consumer Ombudsman 24/10/2013
Consumer Ombudsman: Hidden advertising forbidden in blogs as well, FCCA’s press release on 18/11/2013