5 Legal Issues to Avoid in Your Radio Ads

I always want to push you to make commercials that stand out. But, there are some things that you just ... can’t ... say!! I won’t go into the full depth of the legalities because they are extremely convoluted. This is just a short guide to show you what to avoid in Canada.

  1. Alcohol & Gaming – It is illegal to entice alcohol consumption or gambling. That’s why all the beer commercials you see on TV show experiences. You’ll also notice that nobody ever drinks from the beer. Moreover, if you look carefully, every beverage is always full. This is not a mistake. So, how do we transfer this to radio? Here are the top things to avoid.
  • You can’t have the SFX of an alcoholic beverage being poured.
  • When describing pricing, never include words like “Only” or “Just.” You should also avoid broadcasting extremely low pricing altogether.
  • NEVER reference drinking or drunkenness.

In short, avoid anything that entices drinking or gambling. Stick with the “good times with friends” message.

It’s also no excuse to follow in someone else’s footsteps. Yes, there are commercials on air that do all of these things. That does not make them legal. In radio, some stations will let you play an illegal message. You might even get away with it too. But, it becomes a huge problem as soon as anyone complains. Always check with National and provincial regulations.

  1. Copyright Infringement – This applies to music, characters, and themes. Usually, music is the big offender. It isn’t uncommon for a client to ask for a certain song to be used in their commercial. Some uninformed writers/producers will do it. In the end, it won’t be their problem. It’ll be yours if you get caught though. Here’s the rule. It is copyright infringement to use someone else’s music in your advertisement without consent. You can try, but it can be tough to get written consent from Paul McCartney unless your company is really, really big
  2. Freshness – This is a weird one. It’s also not well known. If you run a restaurant or a grocery store, you cannot use words like “fresh” or “healthy” without permission. These terms are seen as unsubstantiated claims. They may be true, but they require proof and government approval to be used. So, it’s not impossible, but there are hoops to jump through.
  3. Health Claims – Speaking of unsubstantiated claims, let’s take a look at the health industry. This one gets pretty deep, so I’ll just give you a simple guideline. You cannot make unsubstantiated claims in the health industry. This includes any industry involved with medicine, treatment, or physical advancement. You can’t say that getting acupuncture will make you healthier. You can’t suggest that supplements will make you stronger. You can’t say much of anything to be honest. What you can do, is suggest that your service could potentially make a difference. You can’t be firm in your wording. I usually just imply that it may be very worthwhile for some. Sticky stuff I know.
  4. Industry claims – The rabbit hole gets deeper. Any industry that runs under its own governing body will have its own internal regulations. This also applies to franchised businesses that have a head office to report to. This includes chiropractors, car dealerships, veterinarians, lawyers and many more. For example, lawyers are not allowed to refer to themselves as “better” than any other lawyer. Many automotive brands will not allow their licensed dealers to offer anything that their other dealers can’t offer.

There are a lot of things you can’t or shouldn’t say in your radio ads. But, there are an infinite amount of truly original things you can say. It’s easy to leave these few points out of your commercials. To be honest, there isn’t anything on this list that really upsets me. I probably wouldn’t go in any of these directions if I could. There is always something more important to talk about. Let’s start with your story.