Christmas is coming!

November 15th 2023

Now that Halloween and Bonfire Night are behind us, the Christmas ads are coming in thick and fast. Earlier this year, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published some helpful guidance on festive promotions.

Irresponsible spending

Advertisers should avoid encouraging consumers to spend beyond their means through the use of “Buy Now, Pay Later” services, even if the services themselves are interest-free. Neither should advertisements put pressure on consumers to buy expensive branded goods on credit. The ASA has previously upheld complaints about an ad, in which a mother was shown feeling pressured to buy branded trainers so that her daughter would fit in at school.

Terms and conditions

Ads must include all significant terms and conditions, which would usually include:

•    how to participate
•    start date
•    closing date
•    any proof of purchase requirements
•    the nature and number of any prizes or gifts
•    any restrictions, for example a minimum age qualification  
•    any limitations on availability of the advertised products, prizes or gifts 
•    unless obvious, the advertiser’s name and address

The full terms and conditions should be made easily accessible, for example via a website link, and should not be too complex.

Delivery time scales should take account of possible delays and disruptions in the run-up to Christmas and advertisers must be transparent about any applicable delivery charges.


While many consumers will associate alcohol with Christmas celebrations, ads should not encourage excessive or irresponsible drinking or show alcohol as a key component in the success of a social event. The ASA ruled in 2018 that the Epic Pub Company’s “barrow of booze” promotion, equivalent to around 12 units of alcohol per person, was unacceptable.


Advertisements targeting children should not make them feel inferior for not buying or encouraging others to buy the advertised product. Neither should advertisers make a direct appeal to children to buy or to persuade a parent or other adult to buy the product.  

Ads must not be seen to encourage dangerous or unsafe behaviour. The ASA upheld a complaint about an advertisement in a catalogue for a “Fire Station” play tent that showed children putting out a real fire.


Advertisers must ensure that any ads targeting or featuring children are not exploiting their credulity, loyalty, vulnerability, or lack of experience by making them feel inferior for not buying (or encouraging other to buy) an advertised product.