Reed Smith Client Alerts

Within the digital marketing industry, there is a (tentative) expectation that Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) products will open up new and exciting doors to advertisers in the not-so-distant future.

Readers may already be familiar with the virtual showroom created by Cadillac, or Snap’s AR lenses, which enable advertisers to superimpose three dimensional objects onto real-world scenes.

Warner Bros. is one of the first businesses to take up this offering, allowing Snapchat users to bring the “Spinner” vehicle from the new Blade Runner 2049 film into their world.

However, along with the opportunities that these technologies bring to advertisers, new challenges will inevitably arise. One key question to ask is: how will advertising regulations apply to these virtual or altered environments?

Virtual reality profile

Do the current advertising rules apply to AR and VR?

In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the regulatory body responsible for advertising compliance and for enforcing the Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP code).

Whilst AR and VR activities are not explicitly provided for within the CAP code, it is likely such activities will be caught by the code along with other consumer protection regulations.

In February 2017, the ASA issued new guidance on "Electronic cigarette advertising prohibitions" which explicitly lists "in-game advertisements (including AR and VR environments)" as one of the media channels in which advertisements featuring unlicensed nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are forbidden.

This reference clearly demonstrates that the ASA considers such activities to be within its remit.