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Ads and Exhibits Guidelines

Welda Hörz and Cindy Smith
LLLI Board of Directors
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 33 No. 3, June-July 1997, pp. 56-57

Dear LLLI,

As an Area Conference worker, it was my job to arrange for advertisements in our program booklet and commercial exhibits at the conference. I turned advertisers/exhibitors away when the products, or services did not fit LLLI's Guidelines for Commercial Advertisers or Guidelines for Commercial Exhibitors. Sometimes they complained that their advertisement or exhibit had been allowed at another Area Conference or even at the LLLI Conference. Exactly what are the current guidelines and how do they apply in my Area?

A Confused Leader

Ed. Note: This letter is a composite of questions and concerns brought to the attention of Board members as they've traveled to Area Conferences around the world.

Dear Leader,

It is frustrating when guidelines do not seem to be applied consistently and it can be especially awkward when working with advertisers and exhibitors.

The LLLI Board of Directors (BOD) recognizes the importance of consistent guidelines concerning commercial advertising and exhibits. In fact, this was one of the most anticipated topics when Board, Division and Headquarters Directors met in October 1996 and February 1997. Several policy changes and clarifications resulted.

The following excerpt from the "Guidelines for Commercial Advertisers and Guidelines for Commercial Exhibitors" illuminates these changes. For the full text of this policy, please refer to LLLI Policy/Standing Rules Notebook, Appendix 15 and 16. Leaders can obtain a copy of the newly revised guidelines from their Area Coordinator of Leaders (ACL) or Affiliate Director.

1. General Policy

Products must be compatible with LLLI principles and policies and in adherence with the World Health Organization's (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

2. Endorsements

Acceptance of an advertisement/exhibit does not constitute LLLI endorsement. This statement will appear as a notation in the conference program booklet/publication.

3. Advertisements/Exhibits Requiring Special Permission

An organization that promotes a cause, supports either or both sides of a controversial issue and/or advocates a particular procedure, method or system, related, however vaguely, to health must have the express permission of LLLI to advertise. Advertisements/exhibits accepted previously may become unacceptable due to changes in their and/or LLLI policies and/or philosophy.

4. Products Not Permitted

The following products are not to be advertised/exhibited:

  1. Infant formula
  2. Baby bottles and nipples/teats
  3. Pacifiers and nipple shields (not rigid plastic breast shells or breast shields)
  4. Tobacco products and alcoholic beverages
  5. Contraceptives and/or contraceptive devices

5. Products Permitted with Caution and Consultation

The following products may be advertised/exhibited with caution:

  1. Foods intended for children of an appropriate age
  2. Food supplements, vitamins, minerals and medications

The remainder of the guidelines are unchanged from the July 1991 revision.

In its deliberations, the BOD focused on three points. LLLI advertising and exhibit policies should:

  • reinforce our commitment to the world breastfeeding community;
  • offer consistency in our operations; and
  • place more responsibility in the hands of conference administrators.

"General Policy Statement 1" was added as the guiding principle for all subsequent points. Respect for LLLI philosophy and the WHO code should be the basis for all decisions regarding commercial advertising and exhibits.

Points 4B and 4C make clear to advertisers and exhibitors that they may not display or promote the use of bottles, nipples/teats, pacifiers and nipple shields. Other nipple preparation or protection devices not intended for use during the act of breastfeeding, such as shells for flat or inverted nipples, are acceptable, although the efficacy of these devices has not been established by research. (See the BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK.)

Point 4E establishes that contraceptives and contraceptive devices are still considered outside LLL's area of expertise, but the promotion of breastfeeding techniques that may result in child spacing or lower birth rates are not. Thus exhibits on natural family planning, the lactational amenorrhea method (LAM), or fertility awareness are permissible if local or cultural sensitivities are taken into consideration.

Guidelines regarding foods, food supplements, vitamins, minerals and medications merit special attention. "Products Permitted with Caution and Consultation" are neither accepted nor rejected automatically. Such products need to be evaluated in the context of local cultural sensitivities. Decisions about their acceptability should not be made by the local conference staff alone. Consultation with others in LLL who understand these sensitivities and are knowledgeable about LLL policy and practice is appropriate. Area Conference workers should consult their Area or Division/Affiliate staff support person.

Items in this category will undoubtedly cause the greatest confusion among both Area Conference workers and commercial advertisers and exhibitors. Nonetheless, the Board finds it inappropriate to restrict these products simply because of the difficult decisions involved. The following explanations may help establish whether a product is acceptable.

Point 5A recognizes that wholesome and natural food products for children are now available and may be advertised/exhibited at LLL functions as long as they are compatible with LLLI principles and policies, adhere to the WHO code, and are advertised/exhibited for children of an appropriate age for such products. For example, no food for babies under six months of age would be acceptable since General Policy Point 1 states, "products must be compatible with LLLI principles and policies" and LLL philosophy states, "For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth." (See Publication No. 4.)

In Point 5B, the Board recognizes cultural variations in the understanding of food supplements, vitamins, minerals and medications. An item one culture views as a food supplement might be regarded as a medication in another culture. A substance that promotes healing might be considered a medication in one culture but not in another. In order to accommodate cultural variations in our international organization, the items detailed in this point may be advertised/exhibited only with caution and with appropriate consultation as described above.

In short, the guidelines for commercial advertisers and exhibitors have been expanded to permit new products to be advertised or exhibited within the principles and policies of LLLI. The new guidelines also reaffirm our adherence to the WHO International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitutes. The revised guidelines also reflect the Board's intent to respect the different cultures, local interests and standards in our global organization.

Conferences are an integral part of our mission. These guidelines will help promote respect for LLLI's organization-wide principles while maintaining sensitivity to local interests and concerns.

Why Accept Advertising?

Those who have been in LLL long enough might remember the days when Leaven was an eight-sided black and white newsletter with no advertising.

What's changed and why do we now print ads in our publications? The primary reasons are rising expectations and financial pressures.

As an organization, we enjoy a more polished and prestigious image in the breastfeeding world today and want our publications to reflect this image. Unfortunately the cost to do this has increased also. The costs of paper and publishing technology have outpaced the US inflation rate. Distribution costs, primarily postage, have also increased steadily. Leader dues increases over the past 20 years have not been sufficient to cover the growth of the publication and the increased costs of publishing and distribution.

In the mid-80s, when La Leche League was having serious financial problems, we realized that accepting advertising in our publications could provide some much-needed income. It was at that same time that we decided that a more attractive and comprehensive publication could offer more information to help Leaders do their job. A magazine format also allowed us to qualify for second-class postal rates in the US, which would reach Leaders in a more timely fashion than bulk rates.

Bringing new products to the attention of Leaders allows them to objectively evaluate these products and use them appropriately, judiciously recommending them to mothers. Leaders rarely confuse advertising with endorsement; they are aware that advertising is a part of the education experience our international Leader's journal brings to them. Without advertising, Leader dues would need to be raised about $6-8 (US) per year.

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