Advertising Law and Regulations Essay

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The role of advertising in society continues to expand around the world. In response, many societies face greater  challenges in  regulating advertising to protect the public from deceptive and unfair business conduct. Although the scope of advertising law and  regulations varies from country to country, regulation is generally manifested as self-regulation by the industry and statutory regulation by various government bodies. In many countries, self-regulation – voluntary, industry-wide control by advertisers – complements legal regulatory systems. Given that each self-regulatory system offers a different  set of standards and codes, the international  Chamber of Commerce (ICC) plays an important  role in coordinating efforts to develop international guidelines and policies. The ICC publishes the international  Code of Advertising Practice that is used and integrated into many self-regulatory systems around the world and handles complaints when the scope of a dispute spans multiple countries, or in cases where national self-regulatory systems do not  exist. Other key international organizations include the international Advertising Association (IAA) and the World Federation of Advertisers.

With statutory regulation, a variety of judicial tools can be utilized to achieve prompt and efficient control of advertising practices. Depending on the nature and type of advertising, many different specialized government  agencies oversee its regulation. For a long time, advertising was considered to be outside the realm of freedom of expression. When  the  US  Supreme Court  first considered  the  issue in  1942, it  decided  that “purely commercial advertising” was not the type of speech protected by the First Amendment. In 1976, that decision was explicitly overruled by the US Supreme Court, who reasoned that such advertisements  conveyed  vital  information   to the public and  that  a free enterprise  economy depended upon a free flow of commercial information.  Contrary  to  the  US Supreme Court’s categorical approach, the European courts have tended  to  apply the  same  principles  to  both commercial and non-commercial expression of speech.

Advertising of certain products or services has received closer regulatory scrutiny. For example, the issue of advertising toward children has prompted many restrictions. Furthermore, advertising of certain products is prohibited, especially on broadcast media. Direct-to-consumer prescription advertising is forbidden in all countries except in the US and new Zealand. In fact, advertising of cigarettes demonstrates  a substantially different application of the commercial speech doctrine. Unlike the US and Canada, many European countries have imposed a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising .


  1. Boddewyn, J. J. (1992). Global perspectives on advertising self-regulation: Principles and practices in thirty eight countries. Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
  2. Shaver, M. A. & An, S. (2013). The global Advertising Regulation handbook Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.
  3. Shiner, R. A. (2003). Freedom of Commercial Expression. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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