Five legal issues with online advertising that you should be aware of

justice scale Placing ads on your website can provide you with the ability to generate a nice income, but it can also create a number of different headaches if you do not pay attention to what types of advertisements you are showing. We are not talking about ads that are not relevant to your visitors, we are talking about those that could well put you on the wrong side of the law. If you are a publisher, it might be quite easy to just let an ad network show ads on your site without any restrictions, but you better be aware of what they are showing before you use them as you are ultimately responsible for the contents of your site. If you are an advertiser, it is even more important for you to run an ad campaign that is clear from legal issues. Here are five issues that could arise with ad serving that might put you in hot water:

False Advertising

Companies who are trying to sell products will take the time to highlight the benefits of the items they deliver. Every company is well aware that they cannot make claims about their products that simply are not true, but that does not stop some from trying. This tends to be especially true in the weight loss industry, where new pills and diet fads seem to pop up on a daily basis. Many make wild claims that simply cannot be substantiated, and are therefore a risky type of ad to show.

Illegal by Region

Ads for online casinos and sports gambling can be very lucrative indeed, but the fact of the matter is that gambling is not legal in every part of the world. In the United States, sports gambling is actually only legal in a number of states, which is something you need to be aware of if you have a website that is designed to service customers in a local area in any other part of the country.

Age Restriction

Another type of ad that tends to be generally high paying is that of the porn industry. We are talking about a billion dollar industry here, and one that thrives online, but there are age restrictions that come into play. For example, if you have a site devoted to video games that is likely to be visited by minors, you cannot, under any circumstances, display ads for porn.


We spoke briefly about the issues that you might face with advertisements for diet pills and similar items. One way to show these types of ads and stay away from legal problems is to ensure that they come with a disclaimer that states the products have not been approved by the FDA. Nonetheless, be sure that they are not making any wild claims even with the disclaimers. The same rules apply to tobacco products, which must come with a health warning attached, and which cannot be shown to minors.

Gray Areas

There are some types of ads that are a little trickier to figure out. These types of ads could include promotions for penny stock robots and MLM business models, many of which might fall under the Ponzi scheme umbrella. It is almost impossible to tell which of these are on the up and up, so it is better to avoid them completely, just to be safe.

To summarize, make sure not to show any adult ads to minors, any ads with false claims, and any ads that are deemed illegal in the region being shown. Geotargeting in your ad server is a very useful feature to restrict ads from certain states. If you find it hard to restrict adult ads from minors and gambling ads in certain states, then find a way to restrict them all together. In this case, it is definitely better to be safe than sorry.

Posted in AdServer for Advertiser Ad Strategies by Watson F September 01, 2021 (first published July 2015)


  • Legal considerations with online advertising
    "There are publishers out there who believe that making money with ads on their website as simple as running any kind of ads from any sources and hoping for the best. The reality here is that you need to be really careful about what you choose to display on your site, especially if you want to avoid potential legal issues that could arise. " More
  • Advertising and legality of a product
    "We now live in a world where the rules and regulations are not consistent from one place to another. We are not just talking different countries here, but also different states and regions within a given country. " More
  • Ad serving for medical drug ads
    "There are some ad opportunities that are more profitable than other offers. However, those also tend to be the ones where you really need to be careful with what you display and where you display it. " More