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Ad watchdog bans ‘alarmist’ face mask ads

Estonian firm Novads OU was criticised for its online ads

Unscrupulous face mask vendors seeking to capitalise on coronavirus fears have been censured by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) for distributing "alarmist" ads that prey on people’s virus fears.

Estonian firm Novads OU was criticised for its online ads, including one which appeared on CNN claiming that the virus was propagating at the ‘speed of light’, urging readers to grab a face mask before they sold out.

Another advert, disseminated by the Outbrain network, sprang up on the website of The Scottish Sun in the guise of a news story warning that the ‘nano-tech’ face mask was ‘selling out fast’.

Similarly, Easy Shopping 4 Home, a British-based Amazon marketplace seller, was found to have exploited virus concerns by advertising an ‘anti-coronavirus’ respirator.

The campaigns were banned because they were "misleading, irresponsible and scaremongering", meaning they cannot be shown again.

Matt Wilson of the ASA said: “We’ve banned these ads for face masks because the claims they made went against advice offered by the public health authority, Public Health England (PHE), and were therefore misleading.“

“They were also irresponsible because they were alarmist and played on people’s fears. PHE do not recommend the use of face masks as a means of protection from coronavirus. Our rulings don’t, and we’re not seeking to, comment more generally on the efficacy of face masks or the legitimate right for companies to sell them or people to wear them.”

The Drum has been tracking the ongoing global fallout of the coronavirus outbreak which has exacted an ever-worsening toll on global marketing events with the Adobe Summit, Google Cloud Next and Facebook F8 conference all cancelled.

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