ASA regulates brand website marketing

Deal struck to extend watchdog’s powers and address MPs’ concerns. By Russell Parsons

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is to regulate marketing on brand websites after a deal was struck on how to finance the proposed increase in the watchdog’s workload.

The plan to extend the ASA’s remit, which would add marketing communications to the banner, display and paid-for search ads it currently regulates, follows months of negotiations between a number of industry sectors and Advertising Association (AA) policy body the Digital Media Group.

Marketing communication on brand websites is not currently subject to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) codes on advertising, which the ASA adjudicates on.

There has been concern expressed by consumer groups and MPs, who have accused marketers of using material online that could not be used in other channels.

Lord Smith of Finsbury, chairman of the ASA, says it is “crucial” that the ASA can deal with the “significant” number of complaints about marketing on websites.

However, Jo Farmer, partner at law firm Lewis Silkin, says it is important the full proposals, which will be published when ratified by the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (ASBOF), the ASA Council, CAP and the AA, answer questions such as which country’s regulator oversees websites hosted outside of the UK but aimed at UK consumers.

The change was made possible after ASBOF, which currently administers the collection of a 0.1% levy from advertisers to fund the ASA’s work, agreed a deal with Google that will see the search giant provide “vital seed capital”.

It is expected that the new regulation will come into operation during the second half of next year.

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