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Playing hide-and-seek? A legal perspective on the complex distinction between commercial and editorial content in hybrid advertising formats

Liesbeth Hellemans (Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Eva Lievens (Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)
Peggy Valcke (Interdisciplinary Centre for Law & ICT, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium)

info

ISSN: 1463-6697

Article publication date: 14 September 2015

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to examine the challenges raised by hybrid advertising strategies for principles of identification and separation, included in various regulatory instruments, and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) in particular.

Design/methodology/approach

First, this paper describes two examples of hybrid (television) advertising formats, with a potential interconnection between editorial and commercial content, such as advertorials and commercial overlays. This section is followed by an analysis of the origins and key elements of the identification and separation principle. Next, the implementation in legislation of Belgium (Flanders region), The Netherlands and the UK, and decisions of media regulators in those countries are explored to assess how the principles are interpreted in practice. Finally, the authors identify the concrete challenges that these formats raise and frame those against the background of European policy developments.

Findings

The analysis shows that the current interpretation of the identification and separation principles conflicts with the inherently integrated features of hybrid advertising formats, especially commercial overlays. To remedy this, the authors propose strengthening the identification principle, for instance, by developing cross-media labels and framing this within a co-regulatory framework where advertisers and media service providers take up their responsibility to respect fundamental principles and protect less cognitively skilled consumers, such as children.

Originality/value

This paper aims to contribute to the current re-thinking of the legal framework with regard to new commercial communication techniques, convergence and public interest goals. This can be framed against the background of the revision of the AVMSD and the Digital Single Market Strategy.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the funding institutions, the Agency for Innovation by Science and Technology and the Research Fund Flanders, the discussant of the paper presented at the EUROCPR 2015 conference, Professor Chris Marsden and the reviewers of the article.

Citation

Hellemans, L., Lievens, E. and Valcke, P. (2015), "Playing hide-and-seek? A legal perspective on the complex distinction between commercial and editorial content in hybrid advertising formats", info, Vol. 17 No. 6, pp. 19-34. https://doi.org/10.1108/info-05-2015-0026

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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