How to push the envelope (without breaking the rules)

Aug 27th '20

Rule 2.1 in the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code states that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. But when it comes to direct marketing, what about the envelope in which the marketing communication is contained?


CAP have folded the key points into three need-to-know rules of thumb.


  1. An envelope is considered part of the marketing communication

Some marketers might consider that, in the absence of any claims, an envelope would not fall under the remit of the CAP Code.  However, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has long taken the view that, in the context of a direct mailing, the envelope forms part of the marketing communication.  It therefore follows that consumers need to be able to tell that the envelope contains a marketing communication before they open it.


  1. Company branding or logos alone are (probably) not enough

Some marketers have considered that having their corporate branding on the envelope satisfies rule 2.1.  Others have considered that including their company logo, web address and company name, or a range of company logos is sufficient to alert the recipient to the marketing nature of the contents.  However, in the three scenarios above, the ASA upheld complaints because it was considered that, despite the company logos or branding, the marketer in each case had failed to make their commercial intent clear.


  1. Text should be sufficiently prominent

Whilst the commercial intent of the contents could be obvious if there are clear marketing claims on the envelope, for those envelopes that don’t have such claims the simplest way to comply would be to include text, in a clearly visible location, stating something like “Contains advertising material” or “Marketing Communication” to make clear what the contents are.


However, care needs to be taken to ensure that this statement is sufficiently prominent and unlikely to be overlooked within the overall presentation of the envelope.  If such text is considerably smaller than text elsewhere on the envelope or located away from the other main text this is unlikely to be considered sufficient.


These aren’t, by any means, the only issues to consider when producing mailings contained in envelopes – you should also, for example, ensure you don’t mislead about the importance of the contents or cause undue alarm or distress.  Be sure to visit CAP’s AdviceOnline article on Claims on Envelopes and Advertising Guidance on ‘Claims on Envelopes’ for more detailed guidance.


For more general advice on how to comply with rule 2.1 of the Code, see ‘Recognising Ads: Overview’ AdviceOnline entry.


Source: CAP


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