Advertising Board Published the Report on Supplementary Food Advertisements!


Following the 342nd session of the Advertising Board ("the Board") which addressed the reinforcement of daily diet and health claims, the Board published the Supplementary food Advertising Report ("the Report") on 26.02.2024, outlining the general contours of the supplementary food sector and presenting a comprehensive sector analysis for the year 2023. 

The Board, noting an increase in consumer misinformation regarding products marketed with health claims, particularly exacerbated by societal anxieties stemming from the pandemic and the concurrent rapid digitalization, has indicated that this report was prepared with the dual purpose of enhancing consumer awareness regarding supplementary food promotions and providing guidance to individuals operating within the sector.

The Board evaluated supplementary food advertisements under 9 distinct headings within the Report's content:


1- Advertisements deemed "Detrimental to Public Health", "Exploitative of Consumers Fears" and "Inducing Consumer Anxiety"

The Report highlights that among the most prevalent violations in supplementary food advertising are claims and visuals suggesting the ability to treat diseases that evoke widespread societal concerns. For instance, during the coronavirus pandemic, advertisements appearing on social media accounts of well-known figures asserting the strengthening of the immune system, protection against all virus-induced infections, and personal endorsements of experiencing benefits from a particular dietary supplement, were found by the Board to exploit consumer fears and jeopardize public health. Consequently, the Board issued violation decisions and imposed administrative fines.

In another Board decision, promoting a supplementary food claimed to be beneficial for cancer, despite being a disease categorized in medical literature requiring medical supervision for treatment, was deemed by the Board as contrary to consumer concerns to advertising as a medicinal product. Consequently, administrative sanctions were imposed.


2- Implicit Advertisements

The Board has specifically drawn attention to "implicit advertisements" in the Report, particularly focusing on social media and influencer advertising. Indeed, in one decision, the Board identified the promotion of a supplementary food through a post on a social media platform with a large following. While the post featured an image of the supplementary food and tagged the accounts associated with the brand, directing viewers to corporate accounts without including any explicit advertisement disclosures, the Board determined that the promotion of the supplementary food through redirection constituted implicit advertising. Consequently, an administrative fine was imposed.

Furthermore, the Board considers promotions on social media and influencer advertisements that portray the continuous and ingrained use of dietary supplements in users' daily lives as problematic for consumer discernment, thus constituting violations.


3- Comparative Supplementary Food Advertisements 

As emphasized in the Commercial Advertising and Unfair Practices Regulation, the Report underscores that the Board does not permit the comparative advertising of dietary supplements. Therefore, in an examination where supplementary food from two different brands were advertised comparatively, the Board issued a violation decision.


4- Advertisements Containing Statements Requiring Proof

Advertisers are obligated to substantiate the accuracy of claims made in advertisements. In this context, the Board has drawn attention to the requirement of providing scientific evidence to substantiate claims made in supplementary food advertisements at the time of their publication. For instance, in a case examined by the Board, a supplementary food was claimed to be "sugar-free, vegan, and halal" as well as "the first anti-aging collagen product" asserting that it enables the skin to produce its own collagen without weight issues or the consumption of animal products. The Board imposed administrative sanctions as the advertiser failed to provide supporting evidence for these claims during the advertisement review process.


5- Disparaging Advertisements

The Report specifies that commercial advertisements cannot explicitly disparage or demean any brand, institution, or advertisement. For instance, during the 311th session, the Board issued a violation decision regarding an advertisement for fish oil supplements in gel form, as the advertisement derogatorily compared it to other fish oil supplements in capsule and syrup form, violating the regulations.


6- Exploitation of Reputation and Testimonial Advertisements 

In commercial advertisements, it is prohibited to use a person's, institution's, or organization's name, emblem, logo, or other distinctive elements in a manner that could mislead consumers. Particularly concerning supplementary food advertisements, the Report explicitly states that the use of pharmacy logos, pharmacist endorsements, doctor endorsements, and images to create a perception of trust among consumers is prohibited. Violating this regulation may result in a violation decision due to the potential to undermine public health by creating a false sense of trust in pharmacies, pharmacists, or physicians in relation to supplementary food advertisements.


7- Supplementary Food Advertisements Targeting Children 

The Report notes that supplementary food promotions are crafted with content primarily aimed at convincing parents to purchase the products. In one decision issued by the Board concerning such advertisements targeting parents, the expression "Support your children's immunity all year round" was identified, which did not fall within the permissible health claims. Thus, it was deemed non-compliant with regulations.


8- Advertisements Using Health Claims Contrary to the Legislation

Health claims are defined in accordance with relevant regulations, with their usage strictly regulated. However, statements suggesting benefits for any particular disease in advertisements may potentially influence consumers to purchase the product. For instance, in an advertisement examined by the Board, dietary supplements were promoted with expressions such as "prepares consumers for summer, aids in weight loss, and suppresses appetite" resulting in administrative sanctions.


9- Use of Health Claim in Branding

As a general rule, supplementary food advertisements must comply with relevant regulations. The Board thoroughly examines advertisements presented to consumers in files brought to its attention and evaluates the perception they create among consumers. For example, despite bearing a trademark registered by the Turkish Patent and Trademark Office, a product marketed to consumers during the ongoing global pandemic under this brand name gave the impression of providing protection against the coronavirus outbreak, leading to the imposition of administrative sanctions by the Board.

As detailed above, the Board emphasizes the changes in consumer dietary habits, particularly during the pandemic, and the consequent increased demand for dietary supplements. Within this context, it is crucial for the relevant promotions to comply with the aforementioned conditions and other relevant regulations.

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