Sanction Against Shoe Ad Disrespecting Food

The Advertisement Board rendered a recent guiding decision implementing Article 7/2 of the Regulation on Commercial Advertisement and Unfair Commerce Practices (“Regulation”) titled “Accuracy and Honesty” and ruling that “Advertisements shall be in compliance with the principles of fair competition which have gained acceptance in both business life and in public opinion within the framework of the sense of economic and social responsibility”

The decision pertains to the advertisements published by an international fashion company, on its website, operating in Turkey as well. In the decision subject to the decision, some food products particularly like breads and donuts covered with colorful toppings were placed together with some attractive shoes and sandals offered for sale. The food and footwear products were arranged in upside-down and side by side position in the cited online advertisements of the company.  The Advertisement Board held that the practice of advertising the footwear products together with food like breads and donuts in a such upside-down and side by side position constitutes breach of Article 7/2 of the Regulation, concluded that these advertisements do not respect the sense of economic and social responsibility, they disrespect food and the Board ordered for cease of the said advertisements as the penalty.

Although the Regulation explicitly states that advertisements should respect the sense of economic and social responsibility, these terms are not described under the Regulation. In this regard, the Board’s said decision has significant importance for enlightening how these principles would be implemented.

The decision does not contain any justification reasoning why and how the scrutinized advertisement constitutes breach of sense of economic and social responsibility. However, it could be inferred from analysis of the Board’s decision that the fact that bread has a special meaning under moral values of Turkish society and is deemed “sacred”, as not seen only as a basic and compulsory source for vital nutrition function but also associated with religious and cultural sensitivities, has been taken into account while interpreting the term of sense of economic and social responsibility referred by the Regulation. In addition, it could be argued that the Board did not only consider Turkish society’s values but also considered the fact that bread and food are indeed related to sacred values or other moral emotions in other parts of the world.

Although the Board’s decision has received some criticism, the decision is important and is guiding for interpreting the threshold for when and how the sense of economic and social responsibility could be deemed disrespected in an advertisement.

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