Google and Yahoo back ASA in policing online ads

Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have agreed to remove ads linking to material judged by the Advertising Standards Authority to be breaking its rules, as part of an unprecedented level of cooperation between the regulator and online industry.

From March, the ASA will instruct the search giants to remove paid search ads linking to marketing material it has ruled against under its new CAP Code, as it prepares to police marketing claims on brand websites and social media pages.

Google and Yahoo have also agreed to donate search inventory to the ASA, allowing it to place online ads highlighting an advertiser’s continued non-compliance with its rulings.

Lynsay Taffe, communications and policy manager at the ASA, said the agreements with the search providers are crucial to the effective enforcement of its new remit. “In the traditional media space, a media owner can simply refuse to accept ads from an advertiser or pull non-compliant ads from its properties,” she said. “But when it’s an advertiser’s own websites or social media pages, it’s more difficult as they control these themselves.”

The extension of the ASA’s remit closes a loophole in the existing CAP Code, which classes brands’ sites as editorial and therefore exempt from regulations put in place to protect consumers. The change is being funded initially by a deal secured by the Ad Association in November between the Advertising Standards Board of Finance, which collects a levy from advertisers that funds self-regulation, and Google.

Government and other industry bodies said the measures were necessary if online advertising self-regulation is to remain effective.

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, said, “The Government is committed to tackling irresponsible advertising and marketing, so I welcome the ASA’s steps to bring greater scrutiny to the online world. It’s right that companies’ own websites should meet the same standards as paid-for advertising.”

Geoffrey Russell, director of media affairs at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, said the measures would bring greater consistency to cross-media regulation.

“The importance of online to both consumers and advertisers has exploded over the last few years and this reflects that change,” he said.

Dominic Allon, Google industry leader, said, “Our terms and conditions reference the ASA code of practice and advertisers on Google must respect the CAP Code. We support the ASA’s aims of providing consumer protection and will co-operate with the investigation of any CAP Code violations bought to our attention.”

Microsoft and Yahoo were unavailable for comment when approached by new media age.

Other industry figures also welcomed the change in regulation, but acknowledged it will require companies to improve how their communications and advertising teams work together.

Nick Stringer, head of regulatory affairs at the Internet Advertising Bureau, said, “Before March the challenge will be to raise awareness within the broader industry as this potentially impacts anyone doing business online, from small companies to the biggest brands.”

Craig Hepburn, Nokia’s global director of digital, said, “Sometimes brands don’t pay as much attention to their own promotional material as they do for ads placed on third-party websites. You see this in a lot of companies that have internal and third-party communications departments, some of which don’t even talk to each other properly.”

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