The editorial-style adverts, which were published in Austrian newspapers Kronen Zeitung on 24 March and Kurier on 26 March this year, were found to be identical to an article published in another newspaper, Der Standard, where the piece was marked as a paid advertisement.
However, the Kronen Zeitung and Kurier articles were not marked as advertisements.
This was brought to light after a reader pointed out the inconsistency to the Austrian press council.
The unmarked articles were found to violate points three and four of the Austrian press code of honour, which call for distinctness and impartiality in editorial content.
The articles featured descriptions of charitable work supported by Casinos Austria and Austrian Lotteries, including a shelter for vulnerable people in Vienna and a Red Cross campaign.
In addition, a picture featuring two women with the text “Austria vaccines initiative” was included alongside each article, and was found to be owned by Austrian Lotteries.
Following an analysis, the Senate concluded that the articles were presented in a promotional fashion, with several hallmarks of a paid advertisement – including a lack of criticism or negativity towards the events presented.
In addition, the language used was of a promotional nature and the articles were replicated exactly across all three publications.
Even if a promotion is not paid for, it must clearly be marked as an advertisement in any press publication.
The Senate concluded that the articles should have been marked as advertisements and that readers were misled by the articles’ presentation as editorial content. It also called upon the publications to acknowledge this decision.