When advertisements hide the full truth about products
Firmer controls on advertising are finally on the way. By convening seminars on ethics and launching a public information campaign, the Communication Control Council (SEE) is taking steps to harmonize with European standards and become a weapon in the hands of consumers. This development is needed because fierce competition is encouraging firms to make false and sometimes even dangerous claims in order to promote their products. Significantly, the number of complaints lodged with the council this year is double that of last year. Code breached According to data that SEE President Giorgos Papazisis showed to Kathimerini, 85 complaints have already been made to the council this year, and 55 rulings have been made. Of these, only 10 were dismissed; in all the other cases, the advertisements were deemed to have breached the code of ethics. «We need to be very sensitive to issues related to the code of ethics. It is the only way to protect our work. But there are people in the advertising field who do not comply with it. There is a gap in this area, and that is why we are starting the seminars. At first they will be on a voluntary basis, but the aim is to make them mandatory,» said SEE Vice President Stelios Korizis, who is also the managing director of a large advertising firm. He added that a campaign to mobilize consumers is now being prepared. Papazisis believes that most lapses in advertising come under the category of misleading messages. For instance, a company may advertise its products as being «natural» when in fact they are processed; or a telephone company claims to offer free call time when in fact the consumer pays in advance for the service. A classic example is that of the cigarette company that used the slogan «Now black is readily available,» an advertisement which led the council to convene an extraordinary meeting. Its ruling mentioned that «the claim could make a connection with trafficking in banned substances and thus it contravenes the code of ethics.» According to the executives responsible for sales of that brand of cigarettes, the advertisement increased sales but only temporarily. Papazisis found that many companies deliberately choose to launch advertisements that breach the ethics code «so as to get them banned.» A few days ago, the Greek Nurses’ Union complained about an advertising spot containing sexual innuendoes that they believed were demeaning to their profession. As Papazisis explained, the values of each country determine how each council operates. In some Scandinavian countries where alcoholism is a problem, for example, the authorities are wary of advertisements that may encourage young people to drink, In the US and Britain, there is similar awareness when it comes to tobacco. «In Greece we are concerned about messages related to sex,» commented Korizis. Code makes special reference to children and adolescents According to the advertising code of ethics, «good» advertising does not mislead consumers as to the qualities, value and purchase terms (such as installments and interest rate) of the product. It does not exploit the consumer’s lack of experience or knowledge, and it does not contain scenes that insult moral standards and prevailing notions of dignity. The «Ten Commandments» drawn up by the Union of Advertised and Advertisers according to Article 9 of Law 2862/2000 also stipulate that advertising must not contain messages that incite people to acts of violence, use expressions of enthusiasm by consumers that are not genuine, nor compare products in ways that contravene the principles of fair competition. There is special mention of children and young people. The code stipulates, for example, that their natural trust and lack of experience must not be exploited, and that advertisements directed at young people should not contain material that may harm them physically or mentally.