The time has come to put the CAP on viral ads

Martin Croft’s news story (“ASA investigates ‘violent’ Mortal Kombat viral ad”, MW October 6) highlights the current confusion surrounding viral advertising and whether it should fall under the regulatory remit of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) or not.

A strong case can be made that because a viral campaign uses e-mail as its primary delivery channel it is imperative for e-mail marketing practitioners and the wider online community that viral marketing is taken seriously by regulatory bodies. The next few weeks is therefore critical, as the ASA’s Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) will be ruling on how it can extend its code to cover viral marketing.

The prospect of viral marketing being covered by CAP’s remit must be seen as a positive development, not least because it will legitimise a medium that has long been viewed as the digital equivalent of flyposting. That said, from the outset CAP needs to bare its teeth and clamp down on virals that are purposely offensive and/or created purely for shock value, while illegal “pyramid selling schemes” and “superstition” virals should be banned outright. Furthermore, CAP must rule clearly on whether hosting content on specialist viral sites should be classified as “editorial content” or advertising.

The more that e-mail is recognised as a fully regulated medium, in whatever form it is used, the more all parties involved with this growing advertising channel will benefit.

Spike Robinson

Managing director

Allegran Advertising

London EC1

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