Marketers should take account of the prevailing standards in society and the context in which a marketing communication is likely to appear to minimise the risk of causing harm or serious or widespread offence.



Marketing communications must not contain anything that is likely to cause serious or widespread offence. Particular care must be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of: age; disability; gender; gender reassignment; marriage and civil partnership; pregnancy and maternity; race; religion or belief; sex; and sexual orientation. Compliance will be judged on the context, medium, audience, product and prevailing standards.

Marketing communications may be distasteful without necessarily breaching this rule. Marketers are urged to consider public sensitivities before using potentially offensive material.

The fact that a product is offensive to some people is not grounds for finding a marketing communication in breach of the Code.


Marketing communications must not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it can be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive. Marketers must not use a shocking claim or image merely to attract attention.



References to anyone who is dead must be handled with particular care to avoid causing offence or distress.


Marketing communications must contain nothing that is likely to condone or encourage violence or anti-social behaviour.


Marketing communications, especially those addressed to or depicting a child, must not condone or encourage an unsafe practice (see Section 5: Children).


Marketing communications must not encourage consumers to drink and drive. Marketing communications must, where relevant, include a prominent warning on the dangers of drinking and driving and must not suggest that the effects of drinking alcohol can be masked.


Marketers must take particular care not to include in their marketing communications visual effects or techniques that are likely to adversely affect members of the public with photosensitive epilepsy.


Marketing communications must not portray or represent anyone who is, or seems to be, under 18 in a sexual way. However, this rule does not apply to marketing communications whose principal function is to promote the welfare of, or to prevent harm to, under-18s, provided any sexual portrayal or representation is not excessive.


Marketing communications must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence.

See Advertising Guidance: "Depicting gender stereotypes likely to cause harm or serious or widespread offence"

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