Industry welcomes government’s plan to tackle illegal ads and child safety online

As part of the Online Advertising Programme, the government says it will take a hard line on illegal ads, influencer scams and ads that can harm children.

The government’s plans to crack down on illegal and harmful online advertising as part of the Online Advertising Programme launched today (25 July) has been welcomed by the industry.

The new rules will put more onus on the advertising supply chain – from publishers to adtech platforms – to stop illegal and scam ads. As part of the programme, the government is calling on social media platforms, websites and advertising display networks, such as Google Ads and Amazon Ads, to take tougher action to prevent under-18s being exposed to alcohol and gambling ads.

The government says it will also clamp down on fake celebrity scams and pop-up malware from hackers. The rules to tackle harmful online advertising will be both legislative and non-legislative, and in tandem with the Online Safety Bill.

As part of the plans, a taskforce is being set up, led by Mark Lund, former president of McCann UK and Europe.

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ISBA, the body that represents the voice of advertisers in the UK, has welcomed the government’s response to the Online Advertising Programme consultation. “Building a trusted advertising environment – and a regulatory system that evolves to meet new challenges, and acts to prevent harm – is critical to the strength of our industry and, by extension, to the wider economy,” says Phil Smith, director general at ISBA.

Ministers are right to identify that the alignment of interests and transparency in the advertising supply chain are critical.

Phil Smith, ISBA

“Ministers are right to identify that the alignment of interests and transparency in the advertising supply chain are critical. For the past several years, ISBA has worked to shine a light on this supply chain,” he adds.

“One example is our world-leading research on programmatic advertising and the data-sharing protocols developed by the taskforce we convened to drive change. This kind of industry leadership has helped us to define problems and find solutions – an approach which we look forward to continuing to follow as part of the new DCMS taskforce.”

The enforcement of existing laws and upcoming legislation will be “critical” in tackling harm, adds Smith. “We will look carefully at any legislative proposals which the government brings forward to this end.”

The Advertising Association (AA) also welcomes the new steps being taken. “We are pleased that the government is planning to take a targeted approach with the Online Advertising Programme, focusing on illegal advertising with a particular focus on children,” says Konrad Shek, director of policy research at the AA.

“We also look forward to studying the response in more detail and to supporting the newly announced taskforce. Judgements about changing the coverage and scope of existing advertising regulations will need to be based on the best available evidence,” Shek adds.

Meanwhile, although Jon Mew, CEO at the Internet Advertising Bureau, is pleased the government has “recognised the valuable role” industry-led regulation can play in protecting consumers and businesses, he is “concerned the government is prematurely pursuing a legislative response before it has fully explored other regulatory solutions”.

“Our priority now is ensuring that any proposals are proportionate and justified in their nature, scale and scope,” he says. “In parallel, there need to be renewed efforts from government to enforce existing laws against illegal actors.”