Press releases are generally targeted at journalists with the hopes of them creating a piece of editorial content rather than at consumers with the intention of making a sale. As such, they are excluded from the Scope of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code provided that they are being used as one would expect a press release to be used, e.g. sent directly to journalists or placed in an appropriate online context, such as a ‘Press’ section of a website.
If a press release is not being used in the expected manner, for example, it is included in a mailing sent to consumers, published in its entirety in a press ad (in paid ad space) or placed in a context on a website where it is clearly targeted at consumers, then the content would likely fall within the scope of the Code.
For the avoidance of doubt, editorial articles resulting from a press release are unlikely to be considered advertising within the scope of the Code unless the arrangements were such that it could be considered ‘advertorial’. Please see this detailed guidance on ‘Advertisement features’ for more information on determining whether content is advertorial.
Not all public relations (PR) activities and materials fall within the scope of the Code, though many types of material will. The Code would not, for example, cover an event itself (though it may apply to any material that can be taken away) or a situation where a brand sends out free samples to recipients in the hope, but not with an obligation, that they will then, entirely of their own volition, share their views online or write an article.
If PR material is likely to fall within any of the categories in Part I of the Scope of the Code, then that material will likely be covered by the Code.
Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
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