Advertisements must be easily recognisable as such, regardless of the method of presentation or advertising channel. Consumers have the right to know when attempts are being made to influence them commercially. This requirement concerning the recognisability of marketing applies to all forms and channels of marketing, including social media.
The fact that it is an advertisement and the identity of the advertiser must be clearly discernible from any advertisement. General principles:
- Commercial messages may not be hidden in other communications.
- The advertiser must be recognisable from the advertising.
- Subliminal and hidden advertising are never acceptable.
The stipulations of the Consumer Protection Act apply to all the responsible parties, including the advertiser and the distributor of the advertisement (e.g. a TV channel).
Placement in advertising
The recognisability requirement applies not only to the content and presentation of advertisements, but also to their placement. Advertisements must be clearly separated from other materials. It must be clear to the audience where the advertisements begins and ends. How this separation is to be achieved depends on the advertising channel.
- An advertorial is an advertisement in an editorial style, whose format is reminiscent of an ordinary magazine or newspaper article. It must be possible for the reader to easily distinguish between editorial and advertorial content. Recognisability can be promoted by including the text “Advertisement” on the advertorial.
- Sponsorship refers to funding or other financial support provided to TV programmes for the purpose of promoting sales or recognition of the sponsor’s products or services. The name or logo of the sponsor must be clearly presented at the beginning or end of sponsored programmes.
- Product placement refers to the placement of products, services or brands in an audiovisual programme in return for compensation. Product placement is generally forbidden. However, it is permitted in films, serials, sporting programmes and light entertainment programmes. The appearance of product placement in a programme must be clearly indicated to viewers.
Advertising, sponsorship and product placement (FICORA)
Presentation of advertising
An advertisement must be recognisable as such without closer scrutiny. Recognisability is easily jeopardised if a print advert looks like an article, a TV advert looks like a well-known programme (with the same actors) or a toy is advertised by a well-known cartoon hero.
Interviews with and statements from private individuals may be used in marketing as long as the claims they make concerning the properties and effects of the product can be proved and the advertisement is clearly recognisable.
Offers may not be presented in a manner reminiscent of a bill or debt collection letter. It must be possible for consumers easily to understand that an advertisement is an offer that does not require a reaction unless they wish to order the item in question.
Companies that send their products to bloggers in the hope that they will receive positive reviews in blogs must advise the bloggers to openly disclose the partnership or the receipt of goods or benefits free of charge in conjunction with the reviews.
Informing consumers of sales intent
If the intention is to sell something to a consumer, the consumer must be informed of this from the first contact. In telephone sales, the commercial purpose of the call must be indicated at the very start of the conversation.
Products may not be marketed as gifts, lottery wins or other discounts or benefits if the consumer is expected to make a payment. Nor may the sale of products be disguised as research, and any research must be kept clearly separate from marketing. Ethical Code of Conduct from the Finnish Association of Marketing Research Agencies
Children as a target group
Underage persons (children and adolescents under the age of 18) enjoy a special position in the Consumer Protection Act. Marketing targeted at underage persons is subject to stricter rules than other marketing, because children can be considered to be more susceptible to the effects of marketing due to their limited knowledge or experience.
Marketing that normally reaches underage persons may be treated in the same way as marketing specifically targeted at them. The target group affects the requirements for recognisability. Young children may not easily discern the difference between advertising directed at children and children’s programmes. Recognisability is further hampered if the advertisement is disguised in the form of a task, competition, story or cartoon.
- Children’s programmes with a duration of over thirty minutes may contain advertising.
- Toys representing the main characters of a children’s programme may not be advertised in conjunction with that programme.
- The presentation of animated advertisements in conjunction with animated programmes may also hamper the recognisability of the advertisement.
- Pictures play a central role, as children may not always be able to read any accompanying text, so the pictures may not be misleading.
- Games, pastimes and other entertainment must be clearly separated from advertisements.
- Child actors may only be used in advertising when it is particularly justified. It is justified if they are naturally linked with the product being advertised.
- Direct incitements to buy may not be made by children or addressed to children.
Children as consumers