Is There a Doctor in the House?

From time to time I like to remind clients of specific network guidelines to keep in mind when developing advertising.  One such guideline is the “Persons in White” Rule (a.k.a. “The White Coat” Rule).

Per the network guidelines, the use of health-related professionals or actors representing such persons is not permitted in advertising for over-the-counter products or other products where health or medical claims are made. Such professionals include, but are not limited to, physicians, dentists, nurses, pharmacists and nutritionists.

The use of such professionals or actors, however, is acceptable in advertising for products or services requiring a physician’s intervention or a prescription (e.g., prescription medications or medical devices). 

The “white coat” in the guidelines refers to the white medical lab coat usually worn by health professionals. The white coat is a highly recognizable, well-established symbol of the health care profession. In fact, the association with the health profession is so strong, that even if the person appearing in a commercial doesn’t identify him or herself as a health professional, the implication is that they are a health professional simply by virtue of the fact they are wearing a white coat.

The White Coat Rule has been in existence for many years and is still in effect today. So, if you plan to create advertising that features health-related professionals or actors portraying health care professionals, make sure your creative complies with the network guidelines. And remember, when in doubt, ask questions. The network editors are there to answer any questions you may have.


Marilyn Colaninno is Director of Rights and Clearances for Reed Smith and is responsible for clearing commercials for the firm’s many clients in the advertising industry. If you have specific questions, please contact Marilyn directly at 212 549 0347 or at