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UK's ASA Warns Of New Online Advertising Remit For Websites

 2:44 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

UK's Advertising Standards Authority Warns Of New Online Advertising Remit Affecting Websites From March 1st 2011 [iabuk.net]
The ASA today launches a cross-media ad campaign to raise awareness of regulation changes which will see its remit extended to cover marketing on websites from 1st March 2011.

As a result of the new regulation, marketing communications on companies’ own websites and in other third party space under their control, such as Facebook and Twitter, will have to adhere to the non-broadcast advertising rules as set out in the CAP Code.

The awareness campaign - which will feature prominently on the IAB website until 1st March - calls on companies to ensure marketing messages on their websites are legal, decent, honest and truthful. It also encourages businesses to make sure their websites comply by seeking help and advice via CAP Copy Advice.



 4:07 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Is this 'really' a problem? I think this is more just the beauracracy and standards councils deciding they have to regulate things, looking for problems.


 4:35 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's only a problem if your ad doesn't comply with the standards laid down. The main idea behind the ASA watchdog is to ensure ads don't deceive.

This is the first time that the ASA will be looking at online ads. Previously, it was TV, radio and print ads.


 4:57 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's not just ads it will cover other types of website promotion.

* Advertisers’ own marketing messages on their own websites, regardless of sector, type of businesses or size of organisation.
* Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under the advertiser’s control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter

The ASA state that online advertising is also:

"a type of communication for a good, service, opportunity or gift that primarily sets out to sell something. Of course, marketing communications may set out to sell in a myriad of different ways and may not necessarily include a price or seek an immediate financial transaction."

But that it is not:

"another type of communication explicitly excluded by the CAP Code, for example: classified private advertisements, press releases and other public relations material, editorial content, political advertisements, corporate reports, investor relations etc."

This is a big problem if you wish to comply, or if you wish your competitors to comply but the real problem is that the ASA is a worthless quango with absolutely ZERO powers.

Big corporations constantly flout guidelines and codes of practice with misleading, or offensive ads. Their punishment? They are 'asked not to run the same ad again'.

Hundreds of sham businesses and con artists make false advertisements. Their punishment? They are 'asked not to run the same ad again'.

This will be exactly the same with websites. If you want to complain about your competitor they can agree with the ASA recommendation or they can ignore it. The ASA say that they can refer the case to trading standards or the OFT but any individual can do that anyway.

Thus the ASA is a pointless QUANGO which a) does not prevent big businesses from producing misleading, or offensive ads, b) does not prevent sham businesses from conning people.

Your website competitors will still make misleading claims (I can count over 100 in my sector). Nothing will be done about it.


 5:33 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

It's only a problem if your ad doesn't comply with the standards laid down.

Well of course. But since it doesn't seem to be much of a problem right now, they're just putting their nose into other's business for no good reason.

I had a gov't agency dump on me about 3 years ago over my deceptive use of my website. My domain name is my company name, however I am government credentialled personally. Despite my noting my personal credentials on the website (including links to the gov't search engine that showed me personally being credentialled) they decided the very domain name alone was misleading, I was holding my company out as being credentialled even though the content did no such thing. The only thing they would accept is my name dot com.

You know how much fun it is having a gov't endorsed agency coming down on you like that? not a lot of fun, that's how much :).

They chased me for months. I finally put together a list of about 100 domain names that had been in existence for 10 years. All keyword rich domains owned by people who were credentialled individually. I told them I'd be happy to change, once they got everyone else in the industry to change first. Until then, I'd see them in court and they can explain why they have only ever applied this to me.

The reason it was applied to me? A complaint. Does anyone think a consumer is going to know the details of an act that finely, and be so offended (even though I make it very clear that I'm personally credentialled)? Of course not. It was a competitor that decided to lodge a detailed complaint against me.

That's one very good example of why agencies like this shouldn't be extending broad opinion-based rulings on the web. It leaves us with more opportunities for abuse of power based on opinion that it does solve any real problems.


 5:35 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

The power the ASA has is to tell media not to carry your ads.

It has a fair amount of power, because broadcasters must obey its rulings (other media mostly cooperate voluntarily), but is not publicly accountable at all: it is not even covered by the freedom of information act.


 9:14 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

They have the power to tell radio/TV/print-media to no longer carry your ads.

How long before they have the power to tell your web hosts to take down your entire website?


 9:46 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

they're just putting their nose into other's business for no good reason.

Actually no. I think the ASA does a good job in the UK. If you are not making any false claims you'll be fine - nothing to worry about.


 11:24 pm on Jan 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

I does no such job at all except to slightly embarrass large companies.

TV/radio/print-media will never listen to the ASA and ban ads - they know who the paymasters are.

Every few months I monitor the latest adjudications. The same national corporations keep on appearing month after month. The same old con artists keep appearing (under different names).

I do not wish to single out any particular company but look at the high street stores who advertise on tv.

Tesco have 26 adjudications in the past 3 years 16 upheld / part upheld and a further 27 informally resolved cases.

Asda 16 adjudications, 14 upheld / part upheld, 13 informally resolved.

Marketing departments of national companies are continually creating misleading adverts and every time the ASA just says "don't do it again".

"The ad must not appear again in its current form"

This is repeated adjudication, after adjudication, after adjudication. There is no fine, no banning by ASA, and NEVER any apology from the company.



 9:44 am on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well Frank I must admit I have never paid that much attention to the adjudications but after looking at their website I can see that you are essentially correct. It looks as though all that happens is that they get a routine slap on the wrist then carry on as before.

I have contacted the ASA through their website to ask why repeated offenders are never properly punished. It will be interesting to hear what they say.


 10:46 am on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

That's all very interesting. I really thought the ASA had more teeth.
What are the ASA’s powers?
What are the ASA’s powers?
Our primary sanction is to have advertisements that we judge to be in breach of the Codes withdrawn and prevent them from appearing again. In the vast majority of cases advertisers agree to withdraw their ads following an upheld ASA ruling.

Rulings about TV and radio ads are followed immediately under the broadcasters’ licences.

For non-broadcast advertising, on the rare occasions that an advertiser refuses to comply with an ASA ruling CAP can impose further sanctions to bring to bring them into line.

The ASA is a non-statutory body so we do not have the power to fine or take advertisers to court.

I guess it's better to have some control than none, however, it comes across as a waste time and money.

Here's the bit that online marketers should be aware of.

What is the ASA’s remit online?
What is the ASA’s remit online?
The non-broadcast CAP Code applies to advertising online in paid-space such as pop-up and banner ads, virals and paid-search as well as sales promotions wherever they appear.

The Code does not extend to cover marketing claims that appear on companies’ own websites. This is currently classed as editorial material.

There are ongoing discussions by industry about extending the ASA’s remit online


 11:41 am on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well based on what happens to current businesses I wouldn't be too concerned about.

ASA, "You cannot claim to be the best web designer in the world!"

Designer, "OK, I'll change it to probably the best!"

ASA, "Thank you."


 12:07 pm on Jan 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm very surprised this has taken so long.

because while the ASA is not terribly powerful, it has removed lots of ads which contain unproven claims (in particular for health foods).

they can also order an advertiser to submit all ads for pre-vetting where they have repeatedly breached the code (FCUK had to do this, and I think Ryanair?)

anyway while it will have minimal impact on a lot of websites, certain types of company will be affected, and frankly, rightly so. there are a lot of gullible people in the world, who are very ready to believe that for example a certain brand of yoghurt will magically improve their immune system: if companies can't make these claims on TV, they shouldn't be allowed to do so on their websites either.


 11:33 am on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

How long before they have the power to tell your web hosts to take down your entire website?

I can't wait for them to get that kind of power. I'm sick of all the fake claims, frauds and outright BS that I see in online ads everyday. I'm not normally in favour of big government and more govt interference, but I'd be quite happy for sites to be taken down till the owners learn a lesson or two on honesty.


 3:54 pm on Jan 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Compelling the advertiser to remove an ad is not a small thing,
money and time have already been spent on those ads

Actually, they've been advertising their new powers on the radio recently.

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