The Government has been accused of double standards for failing to apply consumer protection legislation to its own advertising.
According to Brinsley Dresden, head of advertising law at Lewis Silkin, government campaigns such as its recruitment advertising for the armed forces are “misleading” because they “omit” crucial information.
He adds that the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force campaigns increasingly focus on the “glamorous” aspects of the armed forces and do not highlight the dangers of the job.
Dresden says the introduction of Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading 2008 last month should apply to all advertising. “The new consumer regulations introduced at the end of May ban misleading omissions from any kind of advertising.
“But look at the advertising that the government puts out for the armed forces.
“It is misleading by omitting the fact that you may get sent to Afghanistan or Iraq – that you will get placed in mortal danger or not see your family for months on end.”
He says the ads are cheerful and focus exclusively on the employment opportunities within the armed forces, such as the chance to learn one of a number of trades.
But Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, calls his stance a triumph of “legalese”.
Twinn suggests that the legislation is firmly aimed at business to consumer transactions.
He adds: “I think that the average consumer would be aware that joining the armed forces would entail using a gun and might have consequences such as losing your life.”
Last month, law firm Osborne Clarke warned that buzz marketing activities, such as online product placement, “fake” blogs written by brands, and e-mail spammers could face jail for breaching the same legislation (MW May 22).