The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has published the 7th edition of its Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications which will come into force in March 2016. Founded in 1981, the ASAI is an independent self-regulatory body financed by the advertising industry, and its Code covers marketing communications and sales promotions across all forms of media.

The changes to the previous edition of the Code (last updated in 2007) are too detailed to list, but it has expanded to deal with the increasing number of complaints relating to direct marketing or marketing on digital/social media which originate outside of Ireland. If the country of origin has an advertising regulatory authority which operates a cross border complaint system then the complaint will be passed to them. If it does not then the ASAI will now process the complaint through its own system even though the respondent advertiser is not based in Ireland. The principles of the Code have also been expanded to deal with the changing face of advertising. For example, the Code now clarifies that humour and satire are acceptable in advertising provided the use of same is not likely to cause grave or widespread offence or hostility, contempt, abuse or ridicule.

The Code has also widened its definition of "gender" following recent complaints regarding transgender issues in advertisements. The Code already stated that advertisements should not cause offence on the grounds of gender, but its expanded definition now includes "people who have a gender identity different to the gender assigned at birth and those people who wish to portray their gender identity in a different way to the gender assigned at birth."

The Code includes completely new sections on e-cigarettes and gambling (which now require warnings regarding responsible gaming and prohibits any suggestion that gambling is a "rite of passage"). It also introduces new rules which further define and update the regulations on food advertising, children's advertising, alcohol advertising, health and beauty products, and claims made in relation to the environment. By way of example on food/children's advertising, the use of licensed characters in food advertising aimed at children under the age of 12 is now prohibited unless the food product is a fresh fruit or vegetable product.

Alcohol advertising has come under increased scrutiny in Ireland with the result that legislation is in the pipeline, which will encompass it into formal law for the first time. The new Code is reflective of this increased scrutiny and includes a new introductory section on alcohol advertising as well as revised rules for alcohol advertisements.

The existing Code will continue to apply until 28th February 2016 after which the new Code will apply to all advertisements.

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