Compliance with marketing codes

We expect all our companies to comply with industry codes and marketing regulations. However, a small number of campaigns do give rise to complaint.

We aim to track and report all upheld complaints against campaigns by WPP companies. However, our data is still incomplete.

The table below summarises infringements identified and publicly reported by regulatory authorities in India, Ireland, the Philippines, the UK and the US during 2008. It also includes infringements reported through our internal data collection system. For some infringements we were unable to obtain full details of the ruling and type of marketing.

Country Regulatory
Type Ruling
GCI Group UK ASA Online Advert was misleading as it claimed to be offering a laptop at a discounted price, whereas it was actually selling a product of a lower specification.
GCI Group UK ASA Direct mail Mailing was misleading as the delivery and collection charges associated with purchasing the product were not prominent enough.
Grey India ASCI Broadcast and promotional message on product Advert was misleading and encouraged excessive consumption of the product.
Grey UK ASA Broadcast Advert implied that a mouthwash was endorsed by healthcare professionals.
JWT Philippines ADBOARD Product merchandising materials were distributed after the date specified by an order to stop running the campaign.
JWT Philippines ADBOARD Advert was misleading and it violated advertising standards relating to comparison with competitors.
JWT UK ASA Broadcast/print Advert was misleading and encouraged children to eat high sugar/fat products in order to win tickets to sporting events.
O&M India ASCI Broadcast Advert portrayed dangerous stunts on motorbikes which showed a disregard for safety.
O&M India ASCI Broadcast Advert showed a dangerous act, which might be copied by young people.
O&M India ASCI Broadcast Advert showed young men eating whilst driving which was deemed to be dangerous.
O&M India ASCI Online Advert made an unsubstantiated claim.
O&M India ASCI Print A toilet cleaner advert was withdrawn as it could have been misconstrued as an advert for hair shampoo.
O&M India ASCI Print Advert made an unsubstantiated claim.
O&M Philippines ADBOARD Broadcast The tagline used in the advert was too similar to one used by a competitor.
O&M Philippines ADBOARD Online/retail Use of unapproved line in retail and online adverts.
O&M Philippines ADBOARD Billboard A required reference number was missing from a billboard advert.
O&M Philippines ADBOARD Advert for an anti-ageing product contained an unsubstantiated claim.
Wunderman UK ASA Print Advert did not provide enough information to allow consumers to assess a money-saving claim for an internet
and telephone package.
Y&R Ireland ASAI Advert claimed the product “turned stomach acid into water”, which was deemed to be misleading.
Y&R UK ASA Broadcast Advert for a probiotic drink claimed that consumers could find scientific proof of the benefits of the product online, whereas the information was only offered to medical professionals.
Y&R US FDA Broadcast Contraceptive campaign was deemed to be non-compliant with regulations.

◆ Information not available.
Six further cases were identified for which we have no details.

Setting the agenda

Advertising codes need to be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changing attitudes to humour, sexuality, nudity, religion, alcohol and many other topics.

Industry organisations play an important role in this process helping to update national marketing standards and develop guidance on issues such as advertising to children and marketing of sensitive products such as food and pharmaceuticals.

Many of our senior employees participate in these organisations and help ensure codes reflect changing public opinion. Examples from 2008 include:

  • Becky Chidester, President, Wunderman New York is a Board Member of The Healthcare Communication and Marketing Association.
  • Clemente Gonzalez, President, JWT Santiago is a Board Member of The Chilean Ethical Self Regulation Council.
  • David Reid, Finance Director, MediaCom Sydney is a Board Member of The Media Federation of Australia (MFA).
  • Gary Leih, Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy Group UK is President of the European Advertising Association.
  • Lynda Edge, CEO, Headcount is a Member of The Marketing Society.
  • Matt Giegerich, President & CEO, CommonHealth is a Board Member of the Medical Advertising Agency Committee.