Privacy and popular culture
Helpful information on the advertising rules for ads about popular culture, privacy and ads featuring celebrities.
Ads which feature celebrities tend to get significant attention. This is great for increasing awareness of a brand, but not so good if the ad attracts a lot of complaints and is subject to an ASA ruling.
There are sector restrictions to take in to account when using celebrities in ads and advertisers need to be aware celebrities cannot endorse medicines, appear in ads for less healthy foods targeted at young children, or appear in gambling and alcohol ads if they are, or look, under 25. Furthermore, health claims that refer to the recommendation of a celebrity or celebrity health professional, such as in ads for foods and food supplements, are prohibited.
Advertisers commonly use celebrities to endorse their product but for this to be allowed under the advertising rules, the advertisers must hold evidence that any endorsement or testimonial is true. Claims such as “Already a favourite with celebs such a X and Y” would require adequate proof.
That said, if a celebrity spontaneously endorses a product on social media for example, that would be allowed under the advertising rules as we don’t regulate genuine user-generated content. However, if a celebrity is being paid by a brand to post about their product and the brand has editorial control over what is said in the post, this communication needs to be clearly labelled as an ad to prevent it from breaking the rules.
In general, when preparing ads in which celebrities feature, advertisers should always take care to be responsible. They shouldn’t use celebrities who appeal to children and youth culture in ads for age-restricted products and they should be mindful of using celebrities who have been through a public controversy such as those with a history of drug abuse, or with a criminal record. Advertisers should especially take care in incidences when the controversy is related to the product being advertised. For example, using a celebrity who has had financial problems, bankruptcy or a gambling addiction, to advertise a pay day loan company would not be allowed.