Business development · 27 April 2017

Advertising law: Our legal expert answers your questions

Advertising law
Small business owners have a responsibility to ensure all marketing campaigns comply with UK advertising law

For the latest in his series covering all aspects of advertising law for small business owners, Grid Law founder David Walker answers some of the most common questions regarding the legal side of marketing.

Q: I’ve been running a promotion to attract new business and it’s performed better than expected. Our order book is already full. Can I end the promotion early?

The CAP code (the rule book for non-broadcast advertising and marketing) states that:

“Closing dates must not be changed unless unavoidable circumstances beyond the control of the promoter make it necessary and either not to change the date would be unfair to those who sought to participate within the original terms, or those who sought to participate within the original terms will not be disadvantaged by the change.”

There may also be other specific rules to comply with depending on the type of product or service you are promoting and how they are being promoted. So, it really depends on the circumstances.

If you can’t fulfil your promises to any more people who take part in the promotion, it may be best to end it early. Just make sure you fulfil your promises to those who have taken it up already.

In future, you should think very carefully about likely demand before launching other promotions. If it’s going to be difficult to predict, you could, for example, limit the promotion to the “first 20 people who take up the offer” rather than limit it by time.

Your promotion terms and conditions will also be able to give you some protection in these circumstances.

Q: Can I use my customer’s logo on my website to say I’ve worked for them?

If you have their permission to do so, then yes, provided you comply with any restrictions they give you. For example, they may have brand guidelines which say how it should be displayed.

However, if you don’t have their permission you could be infringing their trade mark or copyright. Whilst you and your customer may be operating in completely different industries, so there is no chance of confusion between you, the difficulties come when your use of their logo gives the impression that your customer endorses your products and services.

There may not be any harm or damage to their brand, but your business will be benefiting from their reputation and they could object to this.

Because this position is often unclear, a company’s terms of business will often say whether the other can use its logo to promote the other’s business.

For more information on how using terms and conditions can benefit your business, please see my previous article: Standard terms and conditions: Why they’re the unsung saviours of your business.

Q: We believe we have the best-selling product in the country. What do I need to show before we make this claim in our advertising?

If you want to say you have a “best-selling” product you must be able to back up your claims. So, you must have some independent, verifiable sales data to show that your product has sold more than other comparable products.

To comply with UK advertising law you must also ensure that your advertising isn’t misleading. For example, if you had the best-selling product five years ago, but it isn’t now, you shouldn’t say it is “the best-selling” product because this implies it still is.

Q: I know a celebrity who could Tweet about our product. Is this classed as advertising?

Potentially, yes this would be classed as advertising – particularly if you asked them to tweet about it. It would definitely be advertising if you were paying them to promote your products.

There’s nothing wrong with having a celebrity endorsement, but they need to make it clear that it is a promotional tweet by adding a hashtag such as #ad or #spon.

Because this tweet is classed as an advert it must comply with all of the other rules on advertising and marketing. For example, it must be legal, honest, decent and truthful. It mustn’t be misleading or confusing.

For more information on this, please see my previous article: Promoting your business – the line between impact and illegality.

This issue has been in the news recently with the rise of “influencer marketing” and it is something I’m sure we will see much more of in the future.

Catch up on the rest of David Walker’s series covering all aspects of advertising law:

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

David Walker is the founder of Grid Law, a firm which first targeted the motorsport industry – advising on sponsorship deals, new contracts and building of personal brands. He has now expanded his remit to include entrepreneurs, aiding with contract law, dispute resolution and protecting and defending intellectual property rights.

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