HEED AD CODES
Copyright 2002 www.revolutionmagazine.com
[ January 25th 2002 ]
Standards Authority recently came down heavily
on a mobile phone message advertisement sent out
by leading computer games company Eidos Interactive.
The publishers of the Lara Croft series had employed
a rather inventive way of marketing and promoting
its Commandos 2 product.
had sent out text messages to customers in the
form of a conscription notice. Perhaps less catchy
than "Your Country Needs You!", the text said:
"Please report to your local army recruitment
centre immediately for your second tour of duty.
Commandos 2 on PC, It's More Real Life Than Real
Life out today from Eidos." The mobile phone identified
the sender as "SNBS."
member of the British Army was not amused and
complained to the ASA. As a result, the advertisement
was banned. The ASA was concerned that it might
distress recipients. The text fell foul of two
elements of the advertising code. First, advertisements
should not cause fear or distress unless there
is a good reason. Second, advertisers, publishers
and owners of other media must make sure that
it is clear that advertisements are exactly that:
advertisements. The ASA concluded that the text
Eidos sent did not make it clear enough.
issue could arise again, as the use of both text
messaging and e-mail to promote products becomes
increasingly prevalent. Manufacturers are looking
for ever-more-inventive ways to sell their products
and, while it is easy for consumers to identify
a poster campaign or TV ad as an advertisement,
it could be much harder for them to recognise
that a text or e-mail is an advert.
is particularly the case in the text scenario,
as the Eidos/ASA adjudication showed. Advertisers
are trying to get their message across with limited
space and they don't want to use up that space
underlining: "This is an advertisement." No doubt
with this in mind, the Wireless Marketing Association
has recently released a Code of Conduct to govern
advertising via mobile phones.
makes it obligatory for advertisers to include
their contact details in every text sent. This
may well dissuade companies altogether, since
contact details could take up most of the text
message space. The limit at present is 160 characters.
The Code also requires recipients of unwanted
texts to be given the opportunity to register
their unwillingness to receive such unsolicited
texts. Eurocrats have also been looking at the
issue of unsolicited e-mails in both the snappily
titled Directive on the Processing of Personal
Data and the Protection of Privacy in the Electronic
Communications Sector (the Communications Directive)
and the E-Commerce Directive.
have been lengthy discussions as to whether unsolicited
commercial e-mails should be subject to opt-out
provisions, where recipients are required to flag
up their wish not to receive mail, or opt-in provisions,
where mail is only sent to those expressly wishing
to receive it.
Communications Directive, which will apply to
e-mails and SMS, the European Parliament had recommended
that the choice should be left to individual member
states. However, the Telecom Council of Ministers
decided at their meeting in December that, since
the majority of member states prefer an opt-in
policy, the single market principal should prevail.
This would mean that spam electronic mail would
only be allowed where there is prior consent from
the individual, subject to an exception for existing
customers. Needless to say, there has since been
intense lobbying to persuade the European Parliament
to reinstate its original wording.
Telecom Council gets its way, the scope for spam
advertisements will be much reduced. But for a
company inclined to the same approach as Eidos,
the pitfall is still there. It is just that the
pool of people whom you can address is smaller.