Clarifies expectations for paid content
Earlier this week, the National Media Council (“NMC”) published new guidance in relation to advertising standards in the UAE. The ‘Advertising Guide’ follows the introduction of the new Electronic Media Regulation (“EMR”) which came into effect in June (and which we discussed here) and aims to provide a practical overview of the country’s regulatory requirements for media and advertising.
As well as reiterating the existing rules and regulations in a more succinct and user-friendly manner, there are notable additions in respect of social media content. The key principles to remember are that advertisements should be clearly presented as such, and there must be no ambiguity as to the identity of the advertiser or the existence of a commercial link with them. Recommended ways of achieving this include:
- Ensuring the advert is separate from other media or written material by using clear borders, or including time intervals where the advert will be part of a broadcast;
- Labelling the content as “Advertisement Material” or “Advertisement”;
- Using “#ad” or “#paid_ad”, as applicable, provided these are not buried amongst a long list of other hashtags;
- Using clear, legible font and placing the disclosure somewhere that is obvious to consumers (e.g. not only accessible via a ‘read more’ link);
- Placing the disclosure at the beginning of the content or video description (e.g. for Instagram/Facebook ‘Stories’, the disclosure should feature in the first or second image/video, or at the beginning of a broadcast); and
- For video content, the disclosure should be made verbally as well as in writing as part of the video description.
The above recommendations constitute the most comprehensive guidance the NMC has given to date and serve as a practical indication of what they will be looking for to demonstrate compliance. They fall within a framework of requirements set out in the Advertising Guide and the EMR compelling compliance with local standards in marketing communications, regardless of the medium.
The Advertising Guide also confirms the penalties for non-compliance, which were notably absent from the EMR. It is now clear that the NMC has the power to delete content, or any part thereof, if it is deemed to be in breach of the standards. It also has the option of working with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to block access to content. In addition, fines may be imposed, and may increase for repeat offenders.
The release of the Advertising Guide further demonstrates that the UAE authorities are focused on ensuring online content receives the same scrutiny as traditional media. In order to protect their investment in a campaign, now, more than ever, brand owners should be looking to ensure they have local guidance on the standards that will be applied to their public communications and the practical requirements they must meet.