We’ve all heard of adverts getting banned, right? And we usually associate these bans with TV or radio ads. But what about social media? If you’re a business owner, you’re no doubt using these monstrous platforms to build and grow your business. But do you know the rules of the social media advertising game?
What is an‘advert’ on social media?
According to the Australian Association of National Advertisers Code of Ethics (the Code), advertising and marketing communications include:
- any material.
- published or broadcast on any medium (including social media),
- which draws the attention of the public,
- in a manner calculated to promote or oppose a product, service, person, organisation or line of conduct, and
- which is under the reasonable control of the advertiser.
Paid promotions (e.g. Facebook adverts) are clearly identifiable as adverts on social media. But valuable consideration is not necessary for a social media post to be classified as an advert. Any social media post your business (or anyone under its reasonable control) makes, which is intended to promote your organisation, service or product is likely to be considered an advert.
And if your post can be considered an advert it falls within the jurisdiction of Ad Standards, the industry organisation which deals with consumer complaints about advertising.
How to avoid breaching the Code when advertising on social media
The audience that your ad reaches must be able to clearly identify your ad as one (and not for example a genuine news story or piece of editorial content). This is to protect consumers from being misled.
Social media influencer marketing is important here. If your business sponsors an influencer to promote your product, the influencer’s followers must be able to clearly identify that the post is an advert. If the followers can’t do that, they are being misled and Ad Standards might come knocking.
In the UK it is mandatory for influencers to hastag #ad or #sponsored when posting such adverts. In Australia those hashtags are not required, but the influencer must make it clear (from the image, text, handles and/or hashtags) that the post is commercially motivated.
Specific Prohibitions under the Code:
Discrimination and vilification
Your ad should not portray people or depict material in a way which discriminates against or vilifies a person or section of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, age, sexual preference, religion, disability, mental illness or political belief.
Your ad should not employ sexual appeal where images of minors, or people who appear to be minors are used; or in a manner which is exploitative or degrading of any individual or group of people.
Your ad should not lower in character or quality a person or group of people.
Your ad should not present or portray violence unless it is justifiable in the context of the product or service being advertised (e.g. horror movies or violent computer games).
Sex, sexuality or nudity
Your ad should treat these issues with sensitivity to the relevant audience.
Your ad should avoid strong or obscene language and should only use language appropriate for the relevant audience.
Health and safety
Your ad should not depict material contrary to prevailing community standards on health and safety.
If you are in the food and beverage industry, the motor vehicle industry or if you advertise to children you are required to comply with other codes. You can view these codes by clicking here.
What about the platforms themselves?
Just to make things even more complicated, social media platforms often have their own (sometimes controversial) rules for posting advertisements on their platform.
Ad Standards Copy Advice Service
If you’d like to post an advert on social media (or any other medium for that matter) but you’re concerned it may breach the Code, Ad Standards offers a Copy Advice Service. It is a paid for service but it’s currently affordable even for small businesses ($110).
And no, this is not an ad for Ad Standards 😊
A Final Note
Don’t forget, even if your ad passes muster with your chosen platform, you’ll need to make sure you’re complying with the Australian Consumer Law and any other laws that apply to your business. Feel free to get in touch with a member of our team if you’d like some help making sure your ads are up to scratch prior to posting.