Legal Constraints

Laws that control comparative advertising vary from country to country in Europe. In Germany, it is illegal to use any comparative terminology; you can be sued by a competitor if you do. Belgium and Luxembourg explicitly ban comparative advertising, whereas it is clearly authorized in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. The directives covering comparative advertising allows implicit comparison that does not name competitors, but bans explicit comparisons between named products. The European Commission issued several directives to harmonize the laws governing advertising. However, member’s states are given substantial latitude to cover issues under their jurisdiction. Many fear that if the laws not harmonized member states may close their borders to advertising that does not respect their national rules.

Comparative advertising is heavily regulated in others parts of the world, as well. In Asia an advertisement showing chimps choosing Pepsi over Coke was banned from most satellite television the phrase the leading cola was accepted only in the Philippines. An Indian court ordered lever to cease claiming that its New Pepsodent toothpaste was 102% better than the leading brand. Colgate the leading brand was never mentioned in the advertisement although a model was shown mouthing the word Colgate and the image was accompanied by a ting sound recognized in all Colgate ads as the ring of confidence. Banning explicit comparisons will rule out an effective advertising approach heavily used by US companies at home and in other countries where it is permitted.

A variety of restrictions on advertising of specific products exist around the world. Advertising of pharmaceuticals is restricted in many countries. For example, critics in Canada complain that laws there haven’t been revised in 50 years and have bee rendered obsolete by the advent of TV and more recently the Internet. Toy, tobacco and liquor advertising is restricted in numerous countries. The French government until recently forbade TV ads for retailers publishing cinema and press.

Advertising on Television is strictly controlled in many countries. China is relaxing some regulations while strengthening others. For example only recently has the government begun to require concrete proof of ad claims. In Kuwait the government controlled TV network allows only 32 minutes of advertising per day, in the evening. Commercials are controlled to exclude superlative descriptions, indecent words fearful or shocking shots, indecent clothing or dancing contests, hatred or revenge shots, ethnic derision and attacks on competition. Russian law forbids subliminal advertising bit it is still prevalent because enforcement resources are lacking Regulations regarding levels of violence in ads also vary around the world, as a division of Mitsubishi recently discovered in Span.

Some country laws against accessibility to broadcast media seem to be softening. Australia ended a ban on cable television spots, and Malaysia is considering changing the rules to allow foreign commercials to air on newly legalized satellite signals. However with rare exceptions, all commercials on Malaysian television still must be made in Malaysia.

Companies that rely on television infomercials and television shopping are restricted by the limitations placed on the length and number of television commercials permitted when their programs are classified as advertisements. The levels of restrictions in the European community vary widely, from no advertising on the BBC in the United Kingdom to member states that limit advertising to a maximum of 15 percent of programming daily. The television without Frontiers directive permits stricter or more detailed rules to the broadcasters under jurisdiction of eh member state. In Germany, for example, commercials must be spaced at least 20 minutes apart and total ad time may not exceed 12 minutes per hour. Commercial stations in the United Kingdom are limited to 7 minutes per hour.