Regulations on conventional TV advertising

In order to avoid any spillover, advertising on French television is subject to strict regulations on both the content and the form of advertisements. Here is a summary of these regulations.

Who monitors the broadcasting of TV advertisements?

The CSA (Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel) is responsible for ensuring compliance with the ethical rules. It has the possibility to sanction the public or private media for any advertising which offends against human dignity, discriminatory, shocking or misleading advertising. It is also this body that will monitor the daily advertising time on French television channels. 

How much time is allocated to advertising on French TV channels?

On private TV channels such as TF1, M6, Canal+... there are regulations concerning the time allocated to advertising per hour. Private channels are then limited to 9 minutes of advertising per hour as a daily average compared to 6 minutes for public channels (we are talking here about daily average). A small peculiarity of the public service channels is that they cannot broadcast commercial advertisements between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. Collective or general interest advertising is allowed but screens are limited to 4 minutes. On all TV channels, the duration of commercials is on average between 3 and 180 seconds, but this duration is not regulated.

DTT channels benefit from lighter rules for a period of 7 years (from the date of the start of the programmes), the time allocated to advertising is then 12 minutes on average daily.

As regards sponsorship formats (association of a TV programme with a brand), advertising screens are not subject to any particular duration constraint, but it is customary to have screens between 6 and 8 seconds. These credits are present at the beginning and end of the programme and the presence of the sponsor can be recalled in the trailers or during the programme.

Mandatory information in a TV advertisement

"Avoid eating too much fat, too much sugar, too much salt" or "Avoid snacking between meals": these words have been heard in TV food advertisements since 2007. They are well imprinted in the brain of consumers!

And it is with this auditory memory method that new environmentally friendly TV regulations will be mandatory from 1 March 2022. Car advertisements will have to promote active mobility, carpooling or public transport. One of these three sentences must be mentioned: "For short journeys, walk or cycle", "Think of carpooling" or "For everyday use, take public transport". This sentence should be accompanied by: "#MoveLessPollution".

In the event of non-compliance with these new regulations, the advertiser is liable to a formal notice and, if it fails to comply, to a financial penalty of up to €50,000 per broadcast, according to another decree published in the Official Journal. Similar obligations already exist in the food, alcohol and tobacco sectors.

A few rules on the content of advertisements

So-called comparative advertising is permitted under certain conditions. It must be fair and truthful and must not mislead the audience. Comparisons must be made objectively and with products of the same nature. Another important notion is that this type of advertising must be exclusively in French; the use of anglicism is not authorised.

News or news magazine presenters are not allowed to appear as actors or to lend their voice in an advertisement.

Misleading and subliminal advertising is strictly forbidden.

What are the prohibited areas for advertising on television?

Alcoholic beverages and products, tobacco, firearms, infant food preparations and medicines on medical prescription are not permitted within conventional advertising screens and TV sponsorships.

On conventional advertising screens, certain sectors are subject to restrictions such as gambling or sports betting, and communication during and around programmes aimed at minors is prohibited.

Advertisements for films being filmed, in theatres or being shown are prohibited on TV channels with the exception of cable or satellite cinema channels. However, in order to support cinema attendance, the regulations have been relaxed, it will then be possible to use TV advertising to promote a film about to be released. However, this measure is being tested over a period of 18 months and will be subject to an assessment of its impact on the cinema sector.

Segmented TV advertising allowed

Decree No. 2020-983 of 5 August 2020 has been amended concerning the obligations of publishers in terms of advertising, sponsorship and teleshopping. Segmented advertising is now authorised, which means that advertisements will be able to be broadcast according to the viewer's broadcasting zone. In other words, advertising will now be locatable. This is a boon for advertisers who will be able to target their audience better. However, segmented advertising is also subject to certain restrictions:

  • It will not be able to mention the advertiser's address...
  • It will be limited in terms of schedule and will be prohibited for youth programmes.
  • It must be identifiable to viewers

The TV notice before broadcasting by the ARP is mandatory

The ARP (Autorité de régulation professionnelle de la publicité) ensures that all advertising complies with its ethical rules. All advertising films must then be submitted to the ARP's pre-broadcast notification procedure and must be delivered to the advertising agencies with a positive opinion from the ARP so that the spot can be broadcast.

Examples of withdrawn TV ads

According to the ANJ (National Gaming Authority), the new Winamax advert "Tout pour la daronne" (Anything for the girl) does not comply with the established rules concerning sports betting. Indeed, the latter is asking Winamax to withdraw its advert within one month. Why? The ANJ believes that this advertising campaign conveys a message that is contrary to the law: sports betting would lead to social success (similar to a social climb with the mother and son winning a sports bet).

The advert was then withdrawn for broadcast.

Length of advertisement: 2 minutes

The ANJ is reviewing certain commercial advertisements to assess their compliance. The authority wants to regulate the content of gambling advertisements. This is why gambling operators have now "got into the habit of submitting" their advertisements to the ANJ before broadcasting, "which will make it possible to neutralise upstream those that would be offensive", says an ANJ spokesperson.

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