EconomyFinancialThe Mexican government closes the doors of the metaverse...

The Mexican government closes the doors of the metaverse to Tigre Toño and Osito Bimbo

The Mexican government closed the door of the digital world to Osito Bimbo, Chester Cheto, Tigre Toño and other characters who lived in the packaging of cereals, fried foods or cupcakes. According to the latest update of the Regulations of the General Law of Health in Matters of Advertising, published in September in the Official Gazette of the Federation, these characters may not appear in the digital advertising of brands if the foods to which they are related have at least one nutritional warning stamp.

These characters had to come out of the boxes, bags and other containers when the second phase of the update to NOM-051-SCFI/SSA-2010 came into force, which refers to labeling and established that products aimed at infants that had three or more octagons should remove the animated character from the packaging.

Now, the Ministry of Health seeks to extend these restrictions to open and restricted television, movie theaters, digital platforms and the Internet, and the metaverse with an update of the Regulations of the General Health Law on Advertising.

Article 22 Bis of said regulation stipulates that it will be the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (Cofepris) who will issue the permits for companies that seek to advertise in these spaces, which in some cases are allowed for people over 12 years old.

“It will be subject to permission by the Ministry (of Health), granted through the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks, the advertising that is carried out on open television, restricted television, cinematographic exhibition halls, internet and other platforms. information, on the existence, quality and characteristics of food and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as to promote their use, sale or consumption directly or indirectly, when the label of said products includes the front labeling system, in accordance with the standard corresponding (the NOM-051)”.

Rodrigo Escartín, partner of Escartín Abogados, declares that with the modifications to the Regulations of the General Law of Health in Matters of Advertising, Internet platforms are considered for the first time. “This is going to apply to everything that happens on the internet from web pages to the metaverse. To everything that happens on the network,” he explains.

“It will be Cofepris -depending on its criteria- the authority that determines if advertising is directed at children under 12 years of age, who grants or denies permission to advertise on the internet and other digital platforms. And Cofepris still needs to publish these guidelines to know the procedure that companies must follow to apply for permits”, he adds.

For the World Health Organization (WHO), food advertising is a driver of obesity and non-communicable diseases related to food. For this reason, since 2010, the World Health Assembly adopted the set of recommendations on the promotion of food and non-alcoholic beverages aimed at children, which urge member states, including Mexico, to reduce the impact of advertising of processed and ultra-processed foods and non-alcoholic beverages.

Mexico, the largest consumer of processed foods in Latin America and the fourth largest in the world, has struggled for years with high rates of diabetes and obesity, a health crisis exacerbated by the new coronavirus.

Efraín Olmedo, an expert in intellectual property issues at the Santamarina + Steta law firm, considers that closing all advertising spaces is “a hostile measure for a healthy commercial ecosystem.”

The specialist comments that although the restrictions were limited to packaging, with this update to advertising regulations, companies lose the spaces they had found on traditional platforms, such as cinema and television, or even on social networks and even in spaces that are still little explored but promising as the metaverse, which is positioned as a new place to make community with consumers, especially with the youngest, who have a greater interest in digital media.

For companies whose subsidiaries in Mexico depend on a transnational, the opportunity is also closed for them to join the same line of communication that the parent companies take. If one decides to create an immersive digital experience, for example, in Mexico they might not be deployed. “Companies seek to have the same advertising guidelines in all countries, they are global campaigns to distinguish themselves, they must find spaces so that they coexist with Mexican Law,” says the lawyer.

An advertisement aimed at parents?

The use of characters is an element of emotional connection with buyers, but with this new regulation on advertising, the rules of the game change, leading brands to explore other strategies.

For Iván García, associate creative director at Rojo Colectivo, characters are a starting point for differentiation and to characterize the personality of brands. The challenge, from now on, will be to change communication on all platforms.

“In advertising, let’s say traditional, communication should be directed at parents, with messages about the benefits of the products, since they are the ones who made the purchase decision. On other platforms, such as Facebook, it is assumed that they should not be under 13 years of age, and in the case of the metaverse or augmented and virtual reality experiences, including applications, it must be specified in the terms of use that this advertising is for users over 12 years old,” he says.

Olmedo, from Santamarina + Steta, considers it prudent that companies “keep” the guidelines of their advertising campaigns, in order to demonstrate that they are not directed at minors, in case they want to initiate a process of protection before the new Mexican legislation, which would be a different movement for when the standard that regulates front labeling was updated.

Companies could also continue to reformulate their products to avoid labels, as happened with Bimbo, which managed to remove octagons from some of its most popular products. Those foods that do not have any seal, would be exempt from the restrictions stipulated in the Regulations of the General Law of Health in Advertising Matters.

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