Media Law Prof Blog

Editor: Christine A. Corcos
Louisiana State Univ.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

ASA Finds Express Newspapers Editorials Are "Advertorials", Breach Code

The Advertising Standards Authority has criticized the Express newspapers for "disguising" advertising as editorials. The ASA published three separate adjudications on the issue, on LIPObind, on Copper Heeler (a product designed to relieve arthritic pain), and on LadyCare (a product designed to assist with menopausal symptoms).

The Monitoring team identified that the Daily Express was routinely publishing what appeared to be full-page features for various products.  The top half of the pages was presented as an article containing information about a product, including efficacy claims for that product.  The articles were written by Alison Coleman and they appeared under the heading "express lifestyle - to advertise in this section call 0871 xxx xxxx or e-mail".  The bottom half of the pages featured an ad that contained information on where that same product could be bought.

For example, in the LIPObind case, the ASA found that

The ASA noted that the articles were always and uniquely favourable to the product featured in the accompanying ad and contained claims that have been or would be likely to be prohibited in advertisements.  We noted that the same or substantially similar articles had appeared on different dates; we considered that whilst it was normal for advertising copy to be repeated on different dates, it was unusual for genuine editorial pieces to appear in the same or similar form in the same publication on different dates.  We noted that the articles gave the companys website address and telephone number for more information about the product featured in the ad.  Although we accepted that, at first sight, the articles appeared distinct from the ads that featured below it, we considered the information presented in the articles complemented and added to the information provided in the ads.  We considered that the average reader would have understood the entire page to be a feature on the product, no matter the distinct styles of the top and bottom of the pages.  We considered that by using that approach, the publisher and advertiser were intentionally attempting to circumvent the Code by asserting the top of the pages were not advertising.  We concluded that the routine publication of these pages and the  nature of the articles strongly suggested a commercial arrangement existed between the newspaper and the advertiser and that the advertiser exerted a sufficient degree of control over the content of the articles to warrant the term "Advertisement feature" or the like being placed above the articles.   

On this point, the top half of the pages breached CAP Code clauses 23.1 and 23.2 (Advertisement features).


We noted that an ASA adjudication in May 2008 concluded that evidence presented by the advertiser did not demonstrate that LIPObind helped weight loss or that it could "bind to fat".  We noted that the top half of the pages referred to LIPObinds effectiveness at binding fat and causing weight loss.  Because we had not seen new evidence to demonstrate that this was the case we considered that the top half of the pages were misleading.

On this point, the articles breached CAP Code clauses 3.1 (Substantiation), 7.1 (Truthfulness) and 50.1 (Health & beauty products and therapies).


We told the Daily Express and Goldshield to ensure that their advertorials were identified as advertisement features in future.  We told Goldshield to remove the claims and advised them to seek CAP Copy Advice before advertising again.

Read more in this Guardian story.

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