Latest Version of Indonesian Advertising Ethics Restricts Civil Servants and Religious Figures From Corporate Ads

The Indonesian Advertising Council has restricted public officials and religious figures from featuring in advertisements that aren’t released by their own institutions in its latest revision of the Indonesian Advertising Ethics document. The guidelines also added new clauses regarding promotional campaigns in social media and short message services.

With the rapid advancements of technology, new forms of advertisements and promotional campaigns are always going to outpace the ability of governing bodies to implement relevant and effective regulations. In addition, the increasingly common advertisements featuring actively serving civil servants and religious figures have pushed the Council to act on the interest of the offices to minimize and limit any potential improprieties that may result from these commercial arrangements.

Public Officials and Religious Figures
In the newly released Indonesian Advertising Ethics book, civil servants are restricted under article 3.4 from being part of a commercial advertisement or public service announcements that originate from commercial entities. They are also barred from partaking in advertisements that serve their own personal interest. While actively holding a public office, they are only allowed to be part of ads which promote the interest of the office itself

Religious figures such as ulamas, priests, monks, and religion teachers, are also barred from commercial advertising arrangements and public service announcements on behalf of corporations under article 3.5.

Brand ambassadors, who now often promote their product endorsements on digital media, must actually use the endorsed products and refrain from using competing products at least for the duration of the promotion and the contract with the brand, according to article 3.7.

Digital Media and Influencers
After public consultation on social media advertisements dating back to 2013 when the Advertising Ethics Board conducted discussions with representatives of the media, advertising agencies, the public, and prominent social media influencers,, the Council finally has a set of rules governing such activities.

Under article 4.6, for advertisements in digital space, ads or content made based on a commercial arrangement must be distinct in terms of content and format from non-ad content. In other words, it must be made clear to readers or viewers that they are seeing an advertisement as opposed to other types of content.

The document also regulates individuals who wish to commercially endorse products on their personal accounts. Article 4.6.9b states that commercial advertisements on social media are not to appear on personal accounts without prior announcement of commercial content.

A number of influencers on Twitter for example have been using the hashtag #spon or #ad within their tweets, referring to sponsored content or advertisement. Based on the language of the document, these are to be placed at the beginning of each tweet rather than the end, to signify prior announcement.

Under article 4.6.9a, digital media promotions for products aimed at adults, such as alcoholic drinks and cigarettes must be restricted to viewers under the age of 21. While this may be difficult to implement on networks such as Twitter or Instagram, the responsibility lies with the advertiser as to its implementation.

Document is Freely Available
The amendments on the advertising guidelines were formulated following consultations with a number of individuals from various backgrounds including religious leaders and industry professionals including advertising, politics, social media, and culture.

For input on political and election advertisements, the Council consulted with the Election Commission, General Election Supervisory Committee, as well as the People’s Consultative Assembly.

The book, which can be downloaded from Dropbox covers a wide range of advertising practices, implementations, penalties, and relevant legislations and government regulations and can be freely distributed and used without express permission of the Indonesian Advertising Council.