Societal Norms and Advertising Changes – Advertising Restrictions by Time and Country

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Advertising restrictions by country

As marketing and advertising becomes more sophisticated, many lawmakers around the world have realized that they need to add regulations to protect consumers. As laws have changed over the years, this evolution has led to different advertising norms by country and era.

Check out the differences below and see how the United States differs from the rest of the world.

What Are the Different Advertising Norms by Country and Era?

While advertising and marketing has been around for hundreds of years, if not longer, the technological advances and the new platforms of the last twenty-five years has completely changed the advertising landscape.

Now, the consumer has more power than ever before. Even though we’re exposed to more ads today than in the past, we have options, such as ad blockers and streaming services, which didn’t exist even at the turn of the century.

But, technological advances, especially public wi-fi, smartphones, and social media, has provided opportunities for companies to track our browsing and shopping habits by collecting personal data and placing cookies on our computers.

Advertisers are also able to study habits and performance of ads much better than in the past. As a result, they can target specific customers in different locations and in different points in the buying process.

In response, many countries around the world have passed regulations that enforce higher standards of advertising.

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Marketing in Germany

Germany, as with many of the EU nations, has many more advertising regulations than the U.S. and are a mix between basic rules and voluntary guidelines.

For example, offering premiums, which is widely accepted and used in the United States, is not allowed in Germany.

Some of the other rules and regulations for advertising in Germany are:

  • Limit on junk food advertising to children
  • Product specifications, as laid down in advertising, are considered as legally binding on the seller
  • 12-minutes maximum of advertising per hour in television
  • Advertising of medicinal products is prohibited if market authorization has not yet been granted or if the product is a prescription drug
  • Only foods that fit a certain nutrient profile (such as below certain salt, sugar, and/or fat levels) are allowed to carry claims
  • EU, including Germany, bans tobacco advertising in print media, radio, and internet
  • Tobacco advertising has been banned on television since the early 90s

Marketing in Ireland

A study by the European Policy Information Centre ranked Ireland as the third most restrictive EU country when it comes to eating, drinking, and smoking. Some of the specific regulations include:

  • Spirits cannot be advertised on TV and radio
  • Many food products can’t be advertised on children’s television
  • Tax on sugary drinks

However, the study showed that these regulations haven’t correlated with a reduction in use by Irish citizens.

Marketing in Sweden

Advertising in Sweden has been a challenge for a number of years because of their progressive stance, especially in terms of advertising to children.

For instance, Sweden passed a law in 1991, well before other nations, that prohibited all advertising on television aimed at children under the age of 12.

While similar laws are still in effect, another major concern of regulators is the lack of transparency, or unclear and insufficient information. Some examples of this include:

  • Subliminal social media advertising
  • Inadequate pre-sale information in telemarketing
  • Unsubstantiated health-related claims

Marketing in China

In 2015, China updated its advertising law that had been in place since 1994, which was well before the rise of the internet and before many Western brands had arrived.

One of the key components of the update included targeting false advertising and the use of celebrity endorsers.

Some of the specific changes include:

  • Celebrities can now be held responsible for false advertising claims
  • No celebrity endorsers can be under 10-years-old
  • Banning of cigarette ads in public places and in mass media
  • Baby formula cannot claim to replace a mother’s milk fully or partially

Marketing in Brazil

As with many other developed nations, Brazil has been refining advertising regulations during recent years.

One of their biggest concerns recently is controlling influencer marketing, or endorsements masked on social media as not advertising.

In addition, one interesting fact was that in 2015, Brazilians consumed 40% more alcohol than other developed nations. As a result, Brazil has placed a heavy emphasis on controlling ads regarding alcoholic products.

Some of these regulations include:

  • Always having a safeguard warning about the risks of alcohol, including overconsumption
  • Ads cannot associate drinking with driving, healthy activities, professional success, or sexual performance
  • Alcoholic beverages on radio or television can only be aired between 9pm and 6am
  • Online advertising must follow the same prescriptions as television
  • Printed ads must contain clearly visible warnings, including safe recommendations such as “Drink moderately”

Marketing in Australia

Recent Australian advertising regulations in recent years has focused on false advertising, including claims such as:

  • Comparative advertising: Companies can compare their products to competitors in regards to price, range, quality, or volume as long as they are accurate.
  • Bait advertising: This refers to advertising a sale price but only for a limited quantity of items. With new regulations, companies must clearly state the quantity of discounted items.
  • Country of origin: It is illegal for companies to make false claims about the country of origin of products. In addition, food products must be clearly labeled with the country of origin.
  • Premium: Claims that a product or one of its attributes has some kind of added benefit when compared to similar products can be made as long as the claims can be substantiated.

These claims can mislead consumers into buying products that don’t meet expectations. As a result, the Australian government expects businesses to monitor their advertisements, social media posts, and anywhere else where a business advertises and take down any false claims as soon as possible.

Marketing in United States of America

As one of the most business-friendly economies in the world, the United States of America is not as strict as many other nations. Many laws put more emphasis on consumers educating themselves rather than regulating businesses and advertising claims.

However, there are many regulations for advertisers to follow. Some of the most important to know are:

  • False claims: especially on social media and websites, influencers and other endorsers must sufficiently disclose any material connection between the advertiser and endorser
  • Advertising to children: commercial websites are not allowed to knowingly collect information from children who are younger than 13
  • Environmental claims: statements about environmental-friendly products cannot overstate benefits
  • Prescription drugs: must provide information about side effects and only be advertised for the specific use for which it was approved
  • Food labels: must be properly show serving size, number of servings per container, and nutritional information

There are many other laws and regulations that advertisers must follow, especially when it comes to cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and alcohol, which includes properly labeling for harmful effects and health-related warnings.

How Do We Market Differently Today Than in the 1960s?

One of the biggest differences between advertising in the 1960s and today is that consumers can choose between more products now and they have more opportunities to connect with brands.

As a result, many consumers feel more educated and want to spend money with brands who connect with them through online chats, social media, or forums.

Therefore, brands have morphed during the rise of the internet to find new ways to connect with customers. However, sometimes these new methods are just reinventions of old-school advertising techniques.

Some of the biggest differences in advertising in the 60s compared to now include:


  • Ads in the 60s were static and focused on persuading consumers to buy their product.
  • Now, marketers need to focus their budgets and marketing on informing and having conversations with consumers.


  • Cigarette ads in the 50s and 60s used actors claiming they were doctors and smoked a specific brand of cigarette.
  • Today, brands that don’t appear authentic are ridiculed and shamed online and on social media.


  • Brands have always used celebrities to endorse their products, including in the 60s.
  • Now, brands also use influencers with hundreds of thousands of social media followers using their product.

What Is the GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation is a law passed in the European Union that is a set of rules to give EU citizens more control of their personal data online.

The biggest aspect of the law is the collection, use, and the protection of personal data. Some of the specific requirements of the law are:

  • Data must be gathered legally and under strict conditions
  • Those who collect data are obliged to protect it
  • Disclaimers telling website visitors that they collect data
  • Options to website visitors on which cookies are collected and stored on the computer

The fines and punishments for offenses are in a tiered approach, with a cap of 20 million euros or 4% of a company’s total global revenue, whichever is larger, for the most serious offenses.

Junk Food Marketing by Country

According to a study by the University of Minnesota, children in the United States view an average of one food commercial for every five minutes of television watched.

Usually, these ads are for foods high in sugar and fat, such as fast food, high-sugar cereals, sugary drinks, and candy.

As a result, eight countries have passed regulations restricting broadcast advertising and other child-targeted advertising techniques.

  1. Canada: A 1980 law restricting junk-food marketing was one of the first of its kind and directly led to fast food advertising expenditures being reduced 13%.
  2. Chile: The country has laws that restrict advertising targeted to children under the age of 14 for foods considered high in calories, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.
  3. France: Advertisements for products containing added fats, sweeteners, or sodium are required to be accompanied by a message explaining dietary principles.
  4. Ireland: Advertisements, sponsorship, teleshopping, and product placement on TV and radio programs where more than 50% of the audience is under 18 are banned for foods high in fats, sugar, and sodium.
  5. Mexico: The country’s Ministry of Health has restricted advertising of certain foods and sweetened beverages on television programs and movies.
  6. Norway: In 2013, industry and government officials agreed to a self-regulated ban on all marketing of unhealthy foods and drinks to children under the age of 16.
  7. Taiwan: In 2016, Taiwan limited unhealthy food advertising for kids under the age of 12.
  8. United Kingdom: The country limits television advertising to children under 16 of foods high in fats, sugar, and salt.

Discover How to Keep Up with New Advertising Regulations

As new technologies are created, new advertising regulations will continue to pop up. How can you stay up to date?

One way it to pursue an Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a master’s degree with a concentration in marketing and advertising, which usually covers regulations, legislation, and technology.

Or, complete the form on this page to get matched to the perfect program for you!

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