On October 1, 2018, the French SRO’s Jury has been faced with a complaint challenging an ad campaign for electronic devices, sold by a French online reseller, on the ground of the violation of the SRO’s Guidelines for Sustainable Development. The Jury held, however, that its goal is not to blame an advertisement for encouraging the purchase of products which do not correspond strictly to the rational needs of the consumer, since the purpose of advertising is not only to inform on a product but also to trigger a desire to buy it.
This decision is an interesting example of how to balance competing interests: ads inciting to buy vs. the promotion of a sustainable development through a reasonable consumption.
The French SRO’s jury(JDP) received a complaint from an individual and another from the French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), requiring it to decide whether an advertising campaign of Cdiscount, a French online reseller, was in compliance with the current self-regulatory rules.
The three posters presented the image of the profile of a man whose brain included the photograph of a product (computer, television, ...), associated with a sentence that reflected the thought of the character ("My old computer is still working, but an accident happens so quickly...", "I decided to go to work by bike, but well ... the bike hurts the buttocks", "I do not need such a big screen, though ... I have a falling view").
For the plaintiffs, in particular ADEME, this advertisement encourages the purchase of new equipment, without real need but in response to an impulse of purchase and consumption, which violates the Guidelines "Sustainable Development" issued by the French advertising self-regulatory organization (“ARPP”) which prohibits in particular discrediting the principles and objectives of sustainable development. According to the plaintiffs, this campaign was in contradiction with the messages of sobriety and responsible consumption promoted by the governmental authorities.
On the basis of the JDP's initial opinion of 1 June 2018, which concluded that the complaints were unfounded, ADEME sent a request for review on the basis of Article 22 of the JDP's Rules of Procedure.
The JDP, meeting again in plenary session, on September 7, 2018, after consulting the analysis formulated by the Reviewer of the Advertising Ethics, confirmed its initial opinion according to which this advertising campaign does not infringe the aforementioned Guidelines.
The JDP noted that the three advertisements visually explain the indecision of the consumer or even his bad conscience but retained that, for all that, they do not endorse actions "manifestly inconsistent or irresponsible", do not encourage waste, do not value excessive consumption patterns, nor do they discredit the commonly accepted principles and objectives of sustainable development.
As such, for the JDP, the Cdiscount campaign remains in line with points 9.1 and 9.2 of the "Sustainable Development" Guidelines.
The JDP emphasized, however, that “it is not for it, on the other hand, to blame an advertisement for encouraging the purchase of products which do not correspond strictly to the rational needs of the consumer, since the objective of advertising is not only to inform on a product but also to trigger a desire to buy. "
This decision is an interesting example of how to conciliate competing interests: ads inciting to buy vs. the promotion of a sustainable development through a reasonable consumption.
One of the challenges of the advertising self-regulation is to promote the balance between the freedom of advertising and its dissemination, on the one hand, and the responsibility towards all stakeholders, consumers as well as professionals, on the other hand.