Rules and guidelines which restrict the promotion of some businesses online

Rules and guidelines which restrict the promotion of some businesses online

It’s fair to say that no two days are the same here at The Creative Collective. And through we are blessed with great rankings on the search engines (achieved over a long period of time and lots of hard work), we do receive enquiries from all sorts of industries on a daily basis which can sometimes throw up some curly ones.

This includes those businesses who are subject to restrictions on whether they can even use certain marketing platforms to promote themselves, which states or countries they can promote in, what sorts of copy and imagery they can us, and, how they must go about it.

Recent enquiries from people in the adult entertainment industry (brothels & escort agencies), religious groups, firearms retailers, mental health and drug resources, led us to research the latest advertising rules and guidelines on some of the more popular channels we would usually turn to when making recommendations to clients on where to spend their advertising dollar. After all, when you’re spending, you want to make it count.

In case you’re in one of these industries and wanted to know what you can and can’t do or what you can and can’t ask for of your digital agency (because we do like to stick to the rules when it comes to such important matters) or even if you’re a fellow marketer trying to figure out this space, here is what our recent research has revealed:

Rules & guidelines which restrict the promotion of the adult entertainment industry

Advertising for the adult entertainment industry is particularly difficult for obvious reasons, as wording and imagery is largely restricted in all states of Australia.

So…how do we advertise so that consumers know what the business is about without revealing too much and potentially offending members of the community?

From what we discovered it’s all about balance. Whilst you can provide basic information about the business, for obvious reasons you cannot promote anything which is at risk of offending the public or upsetting members of the community.

Through research on the guidelines about the approved form of advertisements for prostitution services through section 139A, Prostitution Act 1999, we found a few points which were important to consider when advertising for this particular industry. For example:

-Prohibited images include images of sexual acts or simulated sexual acts, pictures and drawings of seual activity, unsafe sex or drug use are strictly prohibited. Prostitution advertisements which include pictures of tools of trade for Bondage & Discipline, Sadism & Masochism services are prohibited in general publications. For brothel websites or classifiable publications, relevant images are permitted.

-Brothel advertisements must not directly or indirectly state that the brothel is associated with escort services.
-Prostitution advertisements which infer that prostitutes do not have a choice in the services they provide are prohibited.
– Sole operator advertisements which state or imply that more than one sex worker is available are prohibited.


“Ads should respect user preferences and comply with legal regulations, so we don’t allow certain kinds of adult content in ads and destinations. Some kinds of adult-oriented ads and destinations are allowed if they comply with the policies below and don’t target minors, but they will only show in limited scenarios based on user search queries, user age, and local laws where the ad is being served.” The following is not allowed:

Text, image, audio, or video of graphic sexual acts intended to arouse

Examples: Hardcore pornography; sex acts such as genital, anal, and oral sex; masturbation; cartoon porn or hentai

Content promoting underage, non-consensual, or other illegal sexual themes, whether simulated or real

Examples: Rape, incest, bestiality, necrophilia, lolita or teen-themed pornography, underage dating

Content that may be interpreted as promoting a sexual act in exchange for compensation

Examples: Prostitution, companionship and escort services, intimate massage and similar services, cuddling sites

The following is allowed only under certain conditions:

Promotion of dating when motivated by sexual encounters

Examples: “Swinger” sites, “hook-up” or “fling” dating

People or representations of people that display sexual body parts

Examples: Visible genitalia, nipples, or buttocks; sexual body parts that are blurred or censored

Non-family safe

The following is allowed only under certain conditions:

Promotion of sex-related entertainment, including location-specific entertainment

Examples: Strip clubs, adult parties, adult movie festivals

Promotion or sale of merchandise that’s intended to enhance sexual activity

Examples: Sex toys, lubricants, aphrodisiacs, sexual enhancers

Promotion of dating when motivated by infidelity

Example: Affair dating

Content containing sexually suggestive text, images, audio, or video

Examples: Lewd or sexual language, non-explicit erotic magazines

Content containing sexually suggestive poses

Plastic surgery services focused on genitalia or breast augmentation

Examples: Breast augmentation

For more visit:


Adverts must not contain adult content. This includes nudity, depictions of people in explicit or suggestive positions or activities that are overly suggestive or sexually provocative.

Sexually suggestive content

Examples include:

-Nudity or implied nudity

-Excessive visible skin or cleavage, even if not explicitly sexual in nature

-Images focused on individual body parts, such as abs, buttocks or chest, even if not explicitly sexual in nature.

For more, please visit:

More resources:

Rules & guidelines which restrict the promotion of religious groups

Naturally, it is important to ensure that any advertisements do not offend any other religious group or member of the community whilst coincidently being effective for the particular religious group that it is targeting.

Let’s take a recent client enquiry we’ve had from a Muslim group.

In this particular case it is important that advertisement is suitable without being offensive to their culture, or any other religious member of the community.

Specifically, in terms of being appropriate for the Muslim community, there are clear guidelines:

  • Advertisements must not show inappropriately dressed people for example, all women must be covered except for their face and hands.
  • Advertisements must not depict disbelief in islam.
  • Advertisement must not use profane language.
  • Advertisement must not use sexual appeal, emotional appeal or fear appeal.

More resources:

Rules & guidelines which restrict the promotion of weapons & firearms

It appears quite a bit changed in this space in since May 2018. As of this date it is not an offence if a statement that the proposed sale is arranged through a licensed firearm dealer, as well as a serial number of the firearm offered for sale and registered owner’s licence number. In regard to where firearm sales are able to be advertised, as of May 2018, the advertisement of firearms is no longer limited to publications of approved clubs or commercially published firearm shooting magazines.

Firearms are able to be advertised for sale anywhere, including online, provided that the advertisement details and serial number of the firearm for sale and the dealer’s details and licence number are required. … Advertisements made on third-party websites are also allowed providing all the appropriate details are acquired.


Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives. This includes ads for weapon modification accessories.


  1. Blogs or groups connecting people with weapon-related interests, as long as the service doesn’t lead to the sale of these products
  2. Safety courses for firearm training or licenses, and books and videos about firearm safetyPlastic guns, swords and toy weapons
  3. Mounted flashlights for firearms (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)Scopes and sights for firearms (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)
  4. Hunting, self-defence, and military clothing and gear such as shooting targets and clay throwers (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)
  5. Holsters and belt accessories (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)
  6. Gun safes, mounts (including bipods), gun cases, and slings (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)
  7. Equipment and protective clothing (including vests) (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)Paint, coatings or wraps for weapons and magazines (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)
    Firearms, including firearms parts, ammunition, paintball guns and bb guns
  8. Firearm silencers or suppressors
  9. Weapons of any kind, including pepper spray, non-culinary knives/blades/spears, tasers, nunchucks, batons, or weapons intended for self-defence
  10. Fireworks and explosives
  11. Ads promoting the brandishing of firearms

See more:



The following is not allowed:

Ads for products that are designed to explode and could cause damage to nearby people or property

Examples: Nail bomb, chemical bomb, any fireworks that explode, firecrackers, grenades

Ads for instructional content about the assembly, enhancement, or acquisition of explosive items

Example: Bomb-making site, guides, software, or equipment for 3D printing of parts of grenades

The following is allowed:

Ads for gun parts and associated items that increase the safety of a gun

Examples: Gun locks, trigger locks, safety pins, chamber block

The following is not allowed:

… Ads for functional devices that appear to discharge a projectile at high velocity, whether for sport, self-defense, or combat

Note: We err on the side of caution and apply this policy to sporting or recreational guns that can cause serious harm if misused, or that appear to be real guns.

Examples: Handguns, rifles, shotguns, hunting guns, functioning antique guns, airsoft guns, paintball guns, bb guns, 3D-printed guns

Ads for any part or component, whether finished or unfinished, that’s essential to or enhances the functionality of a gun

Examples: Ammunition, ammunition clips, silencers, tripods and bipods for guns, stocks, conversion kits, gun-grips, scopes and sights, bump stocks

Instructional materials on how to make explosives, guns or other weapons.

Examples: 3D-printable, functional gun parts, guides for self-assembly of guns or other weapons, 3D-printing software

… Ads for instructional content about the assembly or enhancement of any functional device (or the parts or components of a device) that appears to discharge a projectile at high velocity

Examples: Gun-making instructions, guides, software or equipment for 3D printing of guns or gun parts

Other weapons

The following is not allowed:

Ads for knives that are designed or promoted (in modern-day usage) as products that can be used to injure an opponent in sport, self-defense, or combat

Ads for any knife design that provides a confrontational advantage (including disguised appearance or assisted-opening mechanism)

Examples: Switchblades, fighting knives, sword-canes, balisongs, military knives, push daggers, throwing axes

Ads for any other product that’s designed to (in modern-day usage) injure an opponent in sport, self-defense, or combat

Examples: Throwing stars, brass knuckles, tasers, pepper spray

Ads for instructional content about the assembly, enhancement, or acquisition of any product covered under the Other weapons policy.

Examples: Guides, software or equipment for 3D printing of push daggers, brass knuckles, throwing stars.

Other resources:

Rules & guidelines which restrict the promotion of Mental Health Services and drug and alcohol rehabilitation services

Claims cannot be made during for advertising purposes in this space include:

  • The word ‘specialist’ (or words to that effect, such as ‘specialises in’) used in relation to describing a registered health practitioner or regulated health service. … 
  • Claims that cannot be substantiated by a body of reputable research.
  • Inaccurate or misleading representation of a product/service or an individual’s details or qualifications.
  • Claims implying superiority of a psychologist over other psychologists.

Addiction services


Google restricts advertising for recovery-oriented drug and alcohol addiction services.

Examples of recovery-oriented addiction services: Clinical addiction treatment providers, recovery support services like sober living environments and mutual help organisations, lead generators or referral agencies for addiction services, crisis hotlines for drug and alcohol addiction


Google only allows ads for addiction services in the United States. Google does not allow ads for addiction services in other countries.


Google allows only addiction services advertisers to bid on keywords relating to drug and alcohol addiction.


Addiction services advertisers must be certified by Google in order to serve ads. Check the requirements for United States under How does this policy differ from country to country? See how to apply below.

For more information on what can not be stated during advertisement practices in relation to the promotion of Mental Health Services, please visit:


Do you have a business or organisation you wish to promote online which is affected by the restrictions and guidelines above? We hope you find this list of guidelines helpful. Please note that these restrictions and guidelines are subject to change at any time. For the most up to date details, see the links above or check direct with the networks themselves.