Charities should be wary of using comparative advertising

Charities should use comparison advertisements only after careful consideration or risk creating divisions in the sector, according to charity marketing experts.

The warning follows a change to the Committee of Advertising Practice codes this week, allowing charities to air comparative ads on TV and radio for the first time.

The change brings the sector in line with other industries and will allow charities to compare the work they do with others, as well as clearing the way for comparisons of how donations are spent.

Dean Russell, head of digital marketing at communications consultancy Precedent, which works with the British Heart Foundation and the RSPCA, says although comparative advertising could improve transparency in the sector, it could also “create divisions”.

Gavin Sheppard, director of marketing at charity communication consultants Media Trust, says it is absolutely right that the sector is now subject to the same codes as other industries, but comparative ads should only be used following “careful consideration” to avoid a situation where “one-upmanship between charities has the negative effect of confusing the public”.

A spokeswoman for the Institute of Fundraising, says the new rules could help charities “educate the public further about the charity’s work”, but charity marketers need to be careful they do not “denigrate” other charities’ work.

The recession is continuing to hit charitable donations. A September Charity Commission study found that 56% of charities have been affected by the recession, up from 52% at the start of 2009.

The changes to the code follow a consultation with industry bodies, Government and advertising agencies. Other changes include stopping marketers exaggerating the environmental benefits of their products; the removal of the pre-9pm scheduling restriction for condom advertising on TV and new broadcast scheduling restrictions to prevent age-restricted computer and console games from being advertised around programmes watched by children.

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