“Back to school” – a phrase welcomed more by parents than their children, often prompts competition amongst advertisers as they look to tap into the annual back to school spending spree. Bearing in mind the rules, particularly on promotions and comparisons, the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) provide a few tips to help you stay between the lines and avoid a stint in detention with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Is it aimed at kids?

Competitions and promotions to drum up more interest in relevant products become more frequent as the new school year approaches.  When you’re running a promotion on school supplies, you’re probably targeting parents rather than kids themselves, but if you do choose to run a promotion aimed at children, make sure you make clear that adult permission is likely to be required, particularly if there is a cost associated with a prize.

Also, don’t forget that marketing communications aimed at children can’t include a direct exhortation to buy a product (or to ask someone to buy it for them) and there are additional database practice considerations when collecting data from children.

Be transparent!

Whether you’re targeting children or parents, you need to be as transparent as possible with your promotions and make sure that you state all the significant terms and conditions in your marketing.  Is your offer running for a limited time only? State a clear closing date (and, in most cases, don’t change it!). Limited stock? Make sure you’ve made a reasonable estimate of the likely demand and provided appropriate information on availability.

Making a comparison?

Remember, if you’re taking the ‘Back to School’ angle with your marketing, it’s likely that a number of your competitors will be too. If you want to claim that you can give consumers the best deal or that your promotions represent a larger saving than those of your competitors’, make sure you hold the necessary substantiation to support your claims.

Be responsible!

Lastly, even if your marketing isn’t aimed at school age children or their parents make sure you keep things responsible.   Using a ‘Back to School’ theme in an ad for alcohol or other age-restricted products is likely to break the rules and using it in a context that sexualises school-age children will undoubtedly be ruled offensive and irresponsible.

Source: CAP

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