Legal, decent, truthful: How ads must comply with the law
It is impossible to ignore the value of advertising and its importance in the modern world. Marketing is a fundamental element of any product or service aimed at the public, and there is fierce competition among companies to promote their goods and services in a creative way. However, there can be legal irregularities in these advertising campaigns, which marketers must be aware of and avoid.
Marketing is a general plan to deliver a product to the consumer. Advertising is when the product is publicized on a variety of platforms, and is usually paid for. Many companies have been caught in the trap of unauthorized advertising, unaware that advertisements in Saudi Arabia are subject to the provisions of the Law of Printed Materials and Publication. Also, merely advertising their activities does not exempt an applicant from obtaining any licenses that may be required by other regulations.
Among the most common offenses committed by marketers are intellectual property infringements against competing advertisements, or other protected content in general. Anyone wishing to derive benefit from another’s intellectual property must ask for permission to use it, and include it in their advertisement only under an agreement concluded and documented between the parties. Protection is also afforded by the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property, which plays a role in raising the awareness of IP rights holders and authors, and society as a whole.
Consumers may also be faced with misleading commercial advertisements, and others that are clearly suspicious. Sometimes they omit the price of the goods being sold, the duration of a special offer, or other crucial details such as discounts on specific items. Some advertisements are clearly incompatible with the official license that has been issued for them. It should be noted that advertisements should contain a means of communicating with the advertiser, whether an individual or an institution, so that they may be held accountable in case of any offense.
Bloggers and celebrity influencers are also responsible for their ads, which can make up a large proportion of their content on social media platforms. It is their responsibility to ensure that the advertised content does not violate the regulations, or offend public morals, and to make sure that the advertised products are original and verified by the relevant authorities.
Finally, the role of the relevant ministries — Media, and Commerce and Investment — and the Saudi Authority for Intellectual Property should not be limited to raising awareness. They should also conduct full and proper follow-up of marketing campaigns in general to verify their regularity, veracity and conformity with reality, to ensure that consumers are protected and not deceived, and to react immediately to any reports of breaches of the relevant regulations.
Dimah Talal Alsharif is a Saudi legal consultant, head of the health law department at the law firm of Majed Garoub and a member of the International Association of Lawyers.