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.

Genuine public notices produced by public authorities and the like are outside the remit of the Code (see Scope f the Code II.f). However, headlining advertisements “Public Notice” as a way to capture consumer attention has the potential to mislead consumers. Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such (Rule 2.1) and must not materially mislead or be likely to do so (Rule 3.1).

Advertisers therefore, should not seek to create the impression that they are linked to a public authority or that their ads are an official announcement if they are merely acting in their own commercial interest (MV Building Contracts Ltd, 30 June 2004; Ray Sayers Insulation & Preservation, 9 July 2003, and Fingershield Safety UK Ltd, 2 March 2005). The ASA has upheld complaints even when the marketer’s name was stated (British Telecommunications plc, 16 July 2003) and when a marketer was seeking to draw readers’ attention to a scheme set up by the Government (Sureclaim Ltd, 18 February 2004).

The ASA upheld a complaint that a circular headed "PUBLIC NOTICE" misleadingly implied that the ad was for official grants. Although the terms of the grant were clarified in the body copy (“The Grants are not Council grants and so are not income related but are based on the condition of your windows or doors”), the ad did not make sufficiently clear that it was a marketing communication. The headline “Public Notice” along with the overall presentation of the ad was found to mislead by implying that the grant was linked to a public authority (Olympian Windows, 5 August 2009).

See ‘Recognising Marketing Communications and Identifying Marketers

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