Marketing often tests the bounds of good practice. Recent examples include a print ad for a clothing store that portrayed violence, a commercial for a women's magazine that was offensive to both sexes, and pictures on a bank website that used children as objects.
Cult Denim, a clothing store that sells mainly to the younger crowd, placed an ad in a free paper (City) that showed the mauled face of a young man who has apparently been beaten up. Readers were told to buy clothes at Cult Denim or else run the risk of getting "messed up bad".
Even though the violence portrayed in the ad was not real, there was no clear connection between the ad and the product, in this case clothes. The ad was clearly contrary to good practice for this reason alone.
Furthermore the ad was aimed at young people and minors or could easily reach them. This kind of marketing is always subject to stricter evaluation than other marketing.
A humorous intent is no excuse
An ad in MeNaiset magazine stated: "The problem with some women is that they get all worked up about some loser and then end up marrying him." According to the advertiser, the intent was to use playful humour and not to offend anyone. Yet the message can be interpreted in a different way: women are harebrained and make stupid decisions and men are worthless.
If advertising gives an offensive picture of a particular group of people, saying it was meant to be humorous and should not have been taken seriously is no excuse. It does not matter whether an ad is part of a broader campaign. In addition to the whole campaign, each part of a campaign must comply with the requirements in the Consumer Protection Act.
Restrictions on the use of children in advertisingSociété Générale, which offers banking services, showed pictures of children in the section of its website marketing derivatives. Portraying children in advertising is only permitted if it can be considered a natural part of the advertising environment or necessary to show the product in actual use. Even in such cases advertisers should avoid giving the impression that children are being exploited to sell the product or service.
Société Générale's website drew a parallel between children and financial derivatives. Since it is hard to see a clear connection between the two, one cannot avoid the impression that children were portrayed simply to appeal to customers.
The three advertisers were told to change their advertising so as to comply with legislation and to pay more attention to good practice in future.
Current Issues on Consumer Law 1/2007, Focus on good practice in marketing