January is typically a time for some sectors of the direct marketing industry to ramp up their mailshots and maildrops. Advertising of consumer loans designed to appeal to those who may have faced a more expensive festive season than intended, is one such area.

Now it seems that a number of advertisers, for consumer loans in particular, will need to take urgent action to change, or even put a stop to, their ongoing direct marketing plans, following a decision by the Advertising Standards Authority at the start of this year against Creation Consumer Finance Ltd.

The decision was that marketers sending mail to consumers’ homes must treat the outer envelope as part of the advertising, even if it is plain and carries no marketing message. As a result, the envelope must now carry a clear notice that it contains marketing material, so that consumers are made aware before opening the envelope.

Moreover, advertisers who add a name and address for returns on the reverse of the envelope will not succeed in claiming that this amounts to notice that the content contains marketing.

Others conducting direct marketing campaigns, whatever the sector, would do well to take heed of this ruling and immediately add the necessary notice, however unpalatable it might be due to the understandable fear that such a notice will cause far more consumers to throw the marketing away unopened.

And for anyone tempted to conclude that this ruling only presents an issue for the direct marketing sector, our advice is to check and, if you’re not sure, seek expert and experienced marketing law advice.

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This article is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. It should not be used as a substitute for legal advice relating to your particular circumstances. Please note that the law may have changed since the date of this article.