UAE National Media Council issues new advertising guidance including rules for social media influencers to abide with when posting sponsored content online 



Earlier this year we reported on the issuance of a set of regulations issued by the UAE National Media Council (the “NMC”) to govern all online activities, including e-commerce and advertising (the “NMC Regulations”). The NMC Media Regulations built on Cabinet Resolution No. 23 of 2017 Concerning Social Media Content (the “Media Resolution”) published in July 2017.

The NMC Regulations made it compulsory for social media influencers to be licenced to continue their activities. Many prominent UAE social media influencers praised the NMC Regulations for providing governance for this previously grey area.

NMC Advertising Guide

On 29 October 2018, the NMC issued additional guidance, which builds on the NMC Regulations (the “NMC Advertising Guide”). This update focuses on the guidance in relation to social media content only (noting that that the scope of the NMC Advertising Guide covers advertising on all platforms, including conventional print and online advertising).

Advertisements on Social Media in the UAE

The NMC Advertising Guide applies to advertising content of any media activity practiced within the UAE, including in the free zones and includes special conditions for social media content.

Article 19 of the Media Resolution made it clear that, “all paid advertising material must be explicitly and clearly stated as paid advertising material” which was generally understood to mean that hashtags such as #ad, #advertising, #paid_ad in all instances of paid advertising posts were sufficient to meet this requirement.

The provisions of the NMC Advertising Guide go further to provide best practice to ensure there is no ambiguity regarding the identity of the advertisement and that such content constitutes paid for advertising. In relation to social media posts specifically, the guidance sets out the following examples:

  • hashtags such as #ad, #advertising, #paid_ad should not be accompanied by too many other hashtags so as to make such hashtags hard to see;
  • in general, disclosure should be made at the beginning of the content or description;
  • avoid placing disclosure in a place that requires users to actively move to another section of the content, i.e. under a “more” link;
  • vague wording alluding to paid advertising, such as, “in cooperation with” are not sufficient to meet the disclosure of paid advertising requirements;
  • if the content is in the form of a video, it must be stated verbally through the video (in addition to writing it in the description of the video);
  • if the advertisement uses stories or videos that are posted on the account, the advertising disclosure should be set out in the picture, first or second or at the beginning of the video.

Fines for non-compliance

Failure to comply with the NMC Advertising Guide may result in an initial fine of 5,000 dirhams. Fines must be paid within 5 days of issuance to avoid a 100 dirham a day late penalty fee (which can accumulate up to a cap of 5,000 dirhams). A repeat of the same offence within a 12-month period will result in a fine double the amount of the previous fine issued, subject to a cap of 20,000 dirhams.

In addition, the NMC reserves the right to delete any part of an advertisement that violates its standard and to prohibit the circulation, audio or visual material with violations that cannot be deleted.

Content requirements

The NMC Advertising Guide also sets out 19 advertising content standards. These standards range from any content that harms the economic system in the UAE and spreading rumours and misleading news to a complete ban on advertising for alcoholic beverages in any form.

Concluding remarks

We strongly encourage brands and social media influencers alike to familiarise themselves with the new NMC Advertising Guide to ensure that all posts and content comply with the updated guidance to avoid the strict fines for non-compliance.