ASA plans campaign as all online ads are regulated

The Advertising Standards Authority will launch its first consumer marketing campaign later this year to highlight its regulation of online advertising when the extension of the CAP Code to all forms of online advertising comes into effect.


The ASA is planning a “big consumer awareness drive” once the recommendations of the Advertising Association to extend the CAP Code are in place to make people aware its remit has expanded.

The Ad Association has released recommendations to extend the CAP Code from its current scope of only covering paid-for online advertising to encompass brands’ own websites and content on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

It said more than 2,500 complaints to the ASA about online advertising in 2009 couldn’t be acted on because they weren’t within the CAP Code remit.

A spokesman for the ASA said, “The wider remit means we’ll receive a couple of thousand more complaints a year, but we also need to let people know that they can now complain about all online advertising and so we’ll be embarking on a consumer awareness drive.”

Alex Tait, chair of the Digital Action Group at advertiser trade body ISBA and digital sales and marketing manager at the Post Office, said the extension of the CAP Code would be welcomed by the online industry.

“As marketers, we know we can only produce successful campaigns if we keep the support and goodwill of our consumers,” he said. “That’s why beefing up the Code and extending its reach online is important. “By giving the consuming public greater confidence and by improving existing protections for children and young people, we’re demonstrating very clearly that acting responsibly is important to us.”

Rae Burdon, chief operating officer of the Ad Association, said one issue that had held back implementation of the extension of the code earlier had been funding.

“An extra 2,500 complaints a year means paying more people and enhanced IT systems, which we can now do because we resolved funding issues in a deal with Google and Asbof last year,” he said.

The Ad Association secured a deal between Asbof – the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, which collects a levy from advertisers that funds self-regulation – and Google in November. This has enabled it to expand its remit in online advertising regulation (nma 10 November 2009).

The recommendations are yet to be reviewed by th Committee of Advertising Practice and the ASA. The Ad Association expects the extended remit will come into effect this September if the terms are accepted, but it has already been met with support from the industry.

Michael Thompson, head of communications and external affairs at alcohol industry trade body The Portman Group, said the drinks industry welcomed the move but warned that it had to meet its regulatory standards.

“We support the creation of a one-stop shop for the regulation of digital advertising as long as there’s no watering down of standards for drinks producers and the ASA ensures standards that are as thorough as our own codes,” he said.

Nick Stringer, director of regulatory affairs at the Internet Advertising Bureau, said the recommendations, if cleared by the CAP and ASA, should build confidence and understanding in online, particularly where there are concerns about advertising to children and age restrictions.

“The recommendations were built on political concerns and issues around age-restricted products, so they were framed with political reality in mind,” he said. “Paid-for advertising online has been well regulated already but there isn’t high awareness of what paid-for ads are already covered by the code.”

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