Italy: Limits And Opportunities Of In-Game Advertising Under Italian Law

Last Updated: 16 June 2007

Article by Francesco Portolano and Matia Campo

The videogame market has undoubtedly become a new investment frontier for advertising professionals, who have begun taking advantage of the enormous opportunities In-games advertising (whether in the form of product placement or otherwise) has to offer.

Product placement occurs when a commercial product or a brand is placed in a television or film production or in any other audiovisual work to become an integral part of it. While product placement is extremely common in the film industry (and could become more common in the TV industry, following the coming revision of the TV Without Frontiers Directive) it has only recently begun to develop in the world of videogames.

In the field of videogames, "in-game advertising" may take many forms. From the typical product placement concept (posters in the background showing a brand, or a product is part of the game), to other forms of presence of the brand (e.g., the whole game may be branded, or a brand/product may appear between levels, etc.).

According to recent statements by the world’s major software companies (e.g., Microsoft), huge investments are being made in the field of in-game advertising. Due to the latest technological developments, especially with respect to the high level of Internet interactivity, videogames can be constantly updated by downloading new brand names or products on a periodic basis.

Even more interestingly, the interactivity of an online game would allow the manufacturer to profile the taste and interests of the player and automatically select, for "placement" in the game, the most suitable product for the user.

Compared to product placement in movies, in-game advertising may have further advantages.

As the so called "episodic" videogame series become more popular, players\users spend more time playing than watching a movie or a TV show, and in most cases, the marketing of expansion packs, which are sold separately, trigger a high user retention.

There is more.

According to a recent study, the use of a brand name taken from real life adds a great level of realism to the game and increases users’ appreciation for the game, and in all likelihood, for the advertised brand as well.

Sometimes (for example in online games), the advertiser could pay the product placement on a "pay-per-impression" basis (i.e., a set amount each time its brand is shown in a game to a player).

What does Italian law say about Product placement in videogames?

As of now, no specific legislation exists in Italy for in-games advertising (neither, more generally, for product placement).

Given that product placement in games (or other forms of in-game advertising) is made for promotional purposes, then it is subject to the same rules regulating more traditional forms of advertising.

In this respect, it should be noted that the inclusion of a recognizable brand or product should not automatically be deemed as advertising. For example, when the primary purpose of the inclusion in the game of the brand or product is to characterize the characters represented, and therefore such inclusion is due to the storyline (e.g., the Ferrari logo in a videogame inspired by the 80s’ TV series Magnum P.I. or Miami Vice).

In this case, and in similar cases, placing a specific brand in an audiovisual work is not aimed at promotional purposes, but is the result of the game authors’ choice, and therefore would not be subject to advertising regulations.

What happens then if, instead, a brand or product is placed in a videogame for advertising purposes (and is therefore advertising)?

In this case regulations on advertisement would apply.

As mentioned above, although in the Italian legal system there is no rule explicitly banning product placement (neither in videogames nor elsewhere), however product placement has generally been deemed unlawful for its alleged "surreptitious" and "undisclosed" nature. Product placement, some argued, is not recognizable as advertising and is therefore illegal.

Following such line of reasoning, regardless of whether it is grounded, one could easily solve the problem by making product placement "recognizable" as advertising (e.g., by means of disclaimers).

And this is indeed what the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) has repeatedly stated: product placement is unlawful only if no means are used to make the product placement recognizable by the viewer\user. Similar principles may be found in decisions of the Giurì di Autodisciplina Pubblicitaria (the Italian advertising self regulating body).

Neither the law nor AGCM, however, clarified the nature of such means to be adopted.

In the field of videogames, proper captions could be added at the start or end of the videogame (e.g., in the credits), and/or in any material distributed with the videogame itself (on the box, in the manual, etc.); audio or visual means could be used to alert the player that a product is being displayed. Other means may be used, also depending on developments of the technology.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that product placement in videogames may be deemed more critical since games, at least certain games, are generally targeted at minors.

According to Italian law, further precautions must be enforced when individuals considered "weak" by definition, like minors, are involved.

More specifically, and in light of the strict regulations provided for by Italian law, brand names shall not be used so as to induce minors to think that a particular product may provide distinctive skills and\or abilities. This may happen, for example, when the player’s virtual alter ego is given specific powers by using the product advertised in the game, or when the use of that specific product allows progressing to the next level or eventually winning the game.

In addition, the message delivered should not induce the minor to adopt "unbalanced life styles" or "unhealthy eating habits."

Other rules impacting on in-game advertising can be found in legislation on consumer protection (mainly Legislative Decree no. 206/2005, the Consumer Code), e-commerce (Legislative decree no. 70/2003), data protection (Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, Data Protection Code), etc.

For example, profiling of players in online games would be regulated by the provisions of the Italian Data Protection Code.

In the light of the news coming from overseas, it is very likely that the technological development and the implementation of the game/player interactivity will have a significant influence on advertising investors, always in search of new business opportunities.

In-game advertising will find in Italy a very receptive market, but software houses and advertising investors shall need to carefully review the sensitive legal issues triggered by in-game advertising.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Topics
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions