New Chinese Law Impacts Global Marketers

A Guest Post From our Partner Agency in China

Newell PR Maggieby Maggie Chan

Director, Greater China

Newell Public Relations

 

Fahlgren Mortine works with global clients every day, and we greatly benefit from the expertise of our partners on the ground around the world. When we read about a law that’s about to take affect in China, we knew we – and our clients who operate in China – needed to learn more. Our partner in China, Maggie, graciously offered to share some context.

China’s new media law, “Advertisement Law of the People’s Republic of China,” goes into effect on September 1, and is likely to have a strong impact on everything from brands’ use of celebrity endorsers to how a beauty product can be promoted.

From a Chinese perspective, having worked in Beijing for more than 15 years, I think the new legislation is needed to greatly speed-up the standardization of the advertising, marketing and PR industry to meet the fast growing, online shopping marketplace. The law basically brings up-to-date existing legislation put in place in 1994, a time when there weren’t many Western brands in the marketplace and before the Internet really took off.

For example, it requires that online ads do not hinder regular Internet use and are closable with one click. It also forbids unsolicited email, phone calls or text messages with the intent of advertising products. This “SPAM” has been a real nuisance to date.

The updated regulation strengthens consumer protection in China, where food-safety scandals and quality issues are common, and it increases fines for false advertising.

For example, celebrity endorsement is common in China because it’s a quick way to connect with consumers who are overwhelmed

Crest Toothpaste
In March, a U.S. toothpaste brand was fined nearly $1 million in China for false advertising, as it allegedly used photo-editing software to misrepresent its teeth whitening effect.

by so many brand choices. Under the new law, celebrity endorsers must have used the product he or she is endorsing and can be held responsible for false claims. With the market becoming more mature, consumers are becoming more skeptical of celebrity endorsements, and the Chinese government obviously wants to send advertisers a signal.

Another example relates to superlative language. Claims of “best,” while regularly used in PR and marketing in the States, are no longer permitted in the China.

Brands and their agencies should read and understand the new law and follow through with its updated requirements to minimize any hassles. Here is the law, straight from the source: The National People’s Congress of the People’s Republic of China.

You’ll see the many nuances and ambiguities, and it’s likely there are nuances those living outside the country won’t see. But partner agencies on the ground are here to help. We can provide context for parts of the law that might not be obvious to those outside China, for example:

An advertisement shall be true to facts, lawful, and in compliance with the requirements for the socialist cultural and ideological development.

It would be difficult to know how broad reaching this statement can be for a non-local. That’s just one example of the many layers of meaning that surround communications in China.

 

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