The Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) has announced the 1st edition of The Experiential Marketing Code of Conduct. Some types of experiential marketing are already covered by the Advertising Standards Authority and the CAP Code, such as the content of leaflets handed out during an experiential campaign, as well as any promotional prize draws or competitions run during an experiential marketing campaign. The Experiential Marketing Code has been drawn up and adopted by the IPM to cover types of experiential marketing which are not currently covered by the CAP Code, with the aim of ensuring that experiential marketing is conducted in a legal, decent, truthful and respectful way of consumers.
The main focus of the new Code is to cover brand ambassadors used by brands and marketing agencies, who carry out activities such as sampling, face to face marketing and live performances to promote a brand. It doesn’t cover brand ambassadors in the sense of celebrities or talent who are recruited to be the face of a brand in advertising and other promotional messages.
Some of the rules in the new Code include:
- Experiential marketers must respect the public and not for example force a product or sample on them
Experiential marketing must be sensitive to the location in which it is conducted. For example, special consideration needs to be given before doing a leafleting campaign in a London Underground station (because of litter concerns), or a sampling marketing activity near a religious place of worship or a school
- Special rules on experiential marketing for food brands, including rules about making sure allergy and ingredient information is prominently displayed
- Special rules on experiential marketing for alcohol brands, which largely extends the CAP Code on advertising alcohol to experiential marketing (eg, the experiential campaign can’t imply social success, link alcohol with sexual activity or seduction or encourage anti-social behaviour). There are also guidelines when employing brand ambassadors to give out samples of alcohol where the brand ambassador is over the age of 18, but under the age of 21
- Other specific rules on experiential marketing for financial services, gambling and lotteries
Experiential marketing aimed at children must comply with the general CAP Codes on not taking advantage of children’s vulnerability or credulity, such as by encouraging pester power or encouraging dangerous activity
- No food or drink samples should be given to children under the age of 12 without their parent’s consent
- Health and safety rules about conducting risk assessments of all places where experiential marketing are going to take place
- Marketers must dispose of all litter caused by experiential campaigns
- Marketers must have adequate public liability insurance for their campaign
It's all good common sense stuff, which if followed and adopted by the industry, should help in raising the bar on standards of experiential marketing.
So how is it going to be enforced and what happens if marketers don’t comply?
Well, for now at least, it is being adopted by trade bodies and will be enforced through trade associations. Ultimately, failure to follow codes adopted by trade bodies could lead to expulsion as a member. The IPM has already adopted it, and I understand that the Direct Marketing Association is about to adopt it. Other trade bodies like the Advertising Association and the Portman Group (for alcohol) contributed and helped write the Code, so they will presumably also adopt the Code. But for now, it’s not going to be enforced through a complaints procedure and self-regulatory body like the ASA and CAP Code.
However, one other method of ensuring compliance with the Code remains, and this will probably be one of the biggest sticks to ensure compliance with the Code for experiential agencies. Most agencies will have signed up to contracts with their clients, and most of those contracts will have a clause somewhere which states that the agency must comply with all relevant UK laws, regulations and codes of practice. So, even if there isn’t a self regulatory body policing compliance with this Code at this stage, advertisers may well threaten to terminate contracts with agencies, or even sue for damages if agencies don’t comply with the new Experiential Marketing Code.
You can find the full text of the Code here.