Safety First!

From time to time I like to remind clients of specific network guidelines to keep in mind when developing advertising.  One such guideline involves Safety in Advertising.

Per the network guidelines, all advertising that disregards normal safety precautions is unacceptable.  The networks will not accept advertising that directly or indirectly condones or glamorizes unsafe or antisocial behavior, or that minimizes or ignores the consequences of any unsafe or antisocial behavior being portrayed.

It is the advertiser’s responsibility to portray compliance with standard safety precautions.  Some examples include the following:

  • Commercials depicting use of recreational equipment – i.e., bicycles, in-line skates, and/or skateboards must show users of the products practicing proper safety methods, such as those recommended by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.  For instance, bicyclists should wear bright clothing and approved helmets; in-line skaters and skateboarders should wear helmets, wrist guards, knee and elbow pads, and gloves.  All bicyclists and skaters should be depicted obeying traffic laws.
  • Commercials depicting use of mechanical equipment or power and/or hand tools must show users of the products wearing appropriate safety gear.
  • The depiction of driving an automobile requires special care.  Seatbelts and shoulder harnesses should be worn (unless in an historic setting or in period footage).  Both of the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel at all times.  The use of cellular phones or other electronic devices (other than “hands-free” devices) is not permitted.  All laws and safety regulations should be carefully observed.
  • Food and beverages should not be consumed while engaging in physical activity or while driving.
  • Advertising that depicts reckless or dangerous behavior by drivers is unacceptable.
  • Feats of skill or athletic prowess may be allowed if the depiction meets safety guidelines and if the action is reasonably related to the product or service being promoted.  Audio or visual disclaimers or warnings may be required.

It is interesting to note that the U.S. Postal Service recently pulled a series of stamps depicting children engaging in various physical activities in response to concerns raised by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition that some of the depictions were unsafe.

The networks are very careful not to accept advertising that disregards normal safety precautions.  So, if you have plans to create advertising that you feel could present a safety concern, 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