AANA brings you recent rulings from the Ad Standards Community Panel to see the AANA Codes in Action – what’s in breach, what’s not – and why. The Code of Ethics includes a provision that advertising must be clearly distinguishable. In this edition of Adwatch we look at three rulings from the Ad Standards Community Panel which illustrate how the provision works when it comes to advertising that looks like ‘news’.
The clause, “Advertising or marketing communications shall be clearly distinguishable as such to the relevant audience” (2.7 in the Code of Ethics), applies to all advertising and marketing communication which is published or broadcast using any medium where the advertiser or marketer has a reasonable degree of control of the material.
Medibank Health Update
This TV ad ran immediately after a segment of the Channel 7 news. The ad begins with the Medibank logo, the words ‘HEALTH UPDATE’ and a voice over stating ‘This is a Medibank Health Update with Mia Greves’. Greves speaks into a Medibank branded microphone while a Channel 7 News ‘ticker’ scrolls information about stories coming up. Greves speaks about anxiety with facts presented in a infographic format while the words ‘Medibank health update’ remain on screen throughout the ad.
Also included are Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg and information on Beyond Blue and the Raising Children Network. The piece finishes with the voice over ‘to find out more search Medibank Health Updates’. The news-style ad is followed by another ad for Medibank with a voiceover speaking about the benefits of Medibank and testimonials.
The complainants’ was concerned that the ad masqueraded as a news story which is misleading as people expect the news to be impartial.
The Community Panel considered that the relevant audience for this ad would be Seven News viewers and the audience would be familiar with the format of the news but who may also be watching the news whilst doing other things such as preparing dinner.
The Panel considered that the format of this ad was much longer than typical TV ads and was highly stylized to look like a news segment. The theme of anxiety and the opening statement that ‘new data shows that the rates of anxiety have doubled in a decade’ reflects a current concern in the community about anxiety and mental health, and resembled content likely to be on the news. The use of Mia Greves, who was a presenter for Seven News for eight years, as presenter as though it was a news segment was consistent with content viewers would expect from Seven News.
Also the appearance of Psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg was consistent with how Seven News would present information from an independent expert. Dr Michael Carr-Gregg often provides expert information to a number of news programs and the relevant audience for this marketing communication could be aware of this. There was no information making it clear that Mia Greves and Dr Michael Carr-Gregg were employed by Medibank and were not providing information as part of a sponsored segment. The Panel considered that whilst there was branding throughout the ad the overall effect of the ad creates confusion as to whether the content is advertising or is part of the news content.
The Panel noted that the Seven News ticker may not be used during the usual programming, however in this instance throughout most of the ad the Seven News logo is featured more prominently than the Medibank logo, and therefore the ad more closely resembled content from Seven News than advertising material for Medibank.
The Panel considered that the ‘Medicare HEALTH UPDATE’ watermark on the screen similarly suggested the content was a sponsored news segment, rather than a TV ad and that the overall impression of the ad was of a news segment on anxiety, or a sponsored health segment as part of Seven News. In the Panel’s view it was not clearly distinguishable to a broad audience of news viewers and did breach Section 2.7 of the Code of Ethics.
This advertorial was an in-program health segment on Studio 10, for Nutra-Life. The segment was part of a fully integrated paid media campaign for Nutra-Life.
The complainant was concerned that the ad was not clearly distinguishable as an ad and masquerading as a news story which would be misleading as people expect the news to be impartial.
The segment started with one of the hosts listing statistics relating to heart and cardiovascular disease. A guest cardiologist joins the TV panel to speak about ways to reduce risks. He speaks about the main risk factors for heart disease and the ‘5 keys to good health’ before recommending the natural product Nutra-Life Kyolic Aged Garlic and referencing the studies that support it as a natural way to reduce heart disease risk.
The Ad Standards Community Panel noted that the cardiologist is embedded with the hosts and there is no indication through the introduction or during the segment that the advice and opinions offered by the medical professional were part of a specific product promotion.
The relevant audience for this ad would be Studio 10 viewers and much of the audience would be familiar with the concept of in-program promotions of products and services. The Panel considered that the ad differed from the usual format of in-program promotions in that the product was discussed by the hosts as though it were a news story. By linking the story to current events and statistics the segment appeared more like a news story on cardiovascular health than an ad.
There was no mention in the segment of the cardiologist appearing to promote a product within the segment itself, rather the impression was he was there to provide broad medical advice in his specialist field of cardiology on an important health issue. The hosts reacted as though they had not heard of the product before, and there was no mention in the segment that there was a sponsorship arrangement between Nutra-Life and Studio 10.
The Panel found that the ad was not clearly distinguishable as advertising material to the relevant audience and breached Section 2.7 of the Code of Ethics.
Read the report.
This free to air TV ad featured a series of ads that contained some elements of news bulletins. A ‘newsreader’ states that celebrations are happening all over Australia with footage showing people dancing in various locations after winning.
The Panel noted the ad was designed to look like a news bulletin reporting on people celebrating wins every four minutes. The Panel considered that it may not be clear within the first few seconds that this was an ad, however soon the use of logos, disclaimers and wording made it clear to most viewers that this was an ad.
The Panel considered there is space for parody and satire in advertising and that although the news bulletins may at first appear real, the ads did not use real newscasters or station branding and is clearly different from a genuine news bulletin.
A range of other issues were also considered by the Panel however overall the ad was found not in breach of any of the AANA Codes. Read the report.
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