The Advertising Standards Authority has released details of its new 5-year strategy. The strategy paper, published on 1 November, has a focus on ‘online impact’, in recognition of the role that online plays in today’s advertising.

What does the strategy look like, and how will it affect your advertising and promotional activity?

The roles of the ASA and CAP

The Advertising Standards Authority polices and enforces advertising standards set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), which sets rules for advertising in the UK.

Even if you’re not governed by an industry body like the Financial Conduct Authority, if you advertise in the UK, you need to abide by the CAP rules. You can read more about what this means in our blog on How to comply with the CAP code.

More impact online – but still with an eye on offline

Launching the new strategy, the ASA said that ‘It’s right to focus on online ads because businesses increasingly advertise online, people are spending more time online and the pace of change online contributes to concerns’.

The strategy has a ‘strong focus on regulating online media, including emerging areas like affiliate and influencer marketing’. We looked in more detail recently at CAP’s new stricter rules on influencer marketing, released in September.

This doesn’t mean, though, that the regulatory body is shifting focus from more traditional channels. It is committed to ‘the important task of making sure ads are responsible in other media too’.

6 areas of focus

The new strategy has six strands:

  1. People. The ASA will put people first – which in practice means listening to and engaging with everyone, not just those who complain to them, and taking account of growing divisions in society. Trust and favourability towards advertising are falling; the regulator will use data and evidence to decide where to focus its efforts.
  2. Online – as well as focusing on misleading content and inappropriate targeting, the regulator will work with big platforms to find ways to stop irresponsible ads from reaching people. There is a widespread lack of awareness that the ASA regulates ads online, and that this includes claims on firms’ own websites.
  3. Effectiveness – the ASA aims to deliver ‘high quality, proactive regulatory projects’ that focus on ads which cause the most detriment. It will prioritise better and use machine learning to improve its regulation. It recognises that its push for an increased profile and greater awareness may lead to an increase in engagement – the ASA will need to focus its limited resources to respond.
  4. Buy-in – the regulator hopes to get better buy-in from online-only advertisers, retailers, brands and others. Some online-only advertisers see the ASA as part of the system they are trying to disrupt, and therefore do not engage with its aims and rules. Not all advertisers realise that the online platforms they use count as ‘advertising’.
  5. Enforcement – the regulator will improve the way it identifies and removes irresponsible ads, particularly online, and review the way it sanctions those who don’t comply.
  6. Independence – the ASA will continue to regulate based on evidence and will demonstrate the effectiveness of its approach. It will respond positively to suggested improvements.

Staying a step ahead – how to create compliant adverts

Making sure your ads comply with the rules is the best way of making sure you don’t come under the ASA spotlight for all the wrong reasons.

And as we’ve covered above, this means not just what you might view as advertising. It means making sure that content you put on your own website, like videos and podcasts, meets the required standards. Read more about how to make podcasts and videos that are compliant.

It means sticking to the new rules on influencer marketing – whether you are the influencer or the firm using their reach to promote your goods and services.

Marketing compliance matters, whether you are otherwise regulated or not. Whether you are working online on or more traditional channels, our tips on how to avoid producing misleading adverts and how to avoid producing misleading online adverts will help.

And of course, learning from others’ mistakes is always a winning approach – find out which adverts attracted the most complaints in 2017 and use them as a case study of ‘what not to do’ in your own strategy.

More advice on meeting ASA and CAP standards

Whether or not you fall under another regulator’s remit, you might like to look at a broader solution. We work across many departments to offer a complete solution, with a range of cost effective, compliance and marketing solutions which are uniquely suited to supporting firms.

When you face business or regulatory challenges, we provide solutions that are tailor-made to your needs with a view to releasing your energies to focus on your clients.

Explore our full range today.

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