…how saccharine are thy contents.

Christmas adverts, particularly for the big supermarkets, are now so well established as “a thing” that the backlash has long since started (and I am not talking about keyboard warriors in a tizz about Tesco featuring Muslims, which sadly means that at least one festive advert this year will highlight the actual state of humanity today).

Aside from deciding how much to irk the purists and annoy all the bah humbugs out there, there are real legal considerations to bear in mind when creating your Christmas advert. Advertising rules are for life not just for Christmas, but they do address two of the three main themes of the festive period by covering religion and booze (there’s nothing specific about family arguments over board games).

The rules governing non-broadcast advertising, if not dinner parties and gatherings with in-laws, stipulate that particular care needs to be taken to avoid causing offence on the grounds of religion. The rules for broadcast advertising go further and devote a whole chapter to faith, religion and equivalent systems of belief. As well as containing what you might expect about generally respecting religions and faiths and not denigrating the beliefs of others, it specifically addresses miracle workers by preventing them from claiming that their services alleviate health problems. There is nothing about them claiming to be able to visit every child in the space of just one night, though.

There are also specific rules for alcohol. People drinking cannot look under 25 years old or behave in a juvenile way, and adverts cannot suggest that drinking can change moods or enhance confidence or be the reason why a social event is going so well. So maybe it’s just best to steer well clear of featuring a works Christmas do.

As ever there is a broad range of other issues to bear in mind too. You can’t encourage children to pester their parents for toys, health claims about Brussels sprouts must have been pre-approved, and Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer is a trade mark owned by somebody else. You shouldn’t drop the F-bomb on an iconic children’s character either, unless you want your advert to attract extra publicity. Oh.

Finally, aside from the legal issues, please please think about the recipients of your creative gifts who will have the adverts foisted upon them like a slobbering kiss from a sherry-addled Grandma, and make them worth viewing. On current form, personally my wish is for Christmas ads to go the way of corporate Christmas cards. One year hopefully Santa will bring me a simple message on screen saying “This year instead of doing a Christmas advert we have donated the vast amounts of money we would have splurged on it to a children’s charity” (and of course Santa will ensure legal compliance by making sure there’s small print identifying the charity and giving details of the donation). Maybe then more people will actually get to experience the magic of Christmas that advertisers are so keen to portray.

Until then, in the spirit of Christmas TV, you can expect to see a repeat of this blog each year.

For further information relating to the points raised in this article, please contact Ben Clay, Senior Associate Solicitor in our Intellectual Property Department.

Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.

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