This year the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) celebrating the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the ASA.
It may be their diamond birthday, but they’re certainly not slowing down. In fact, they’re busier than ever. Over the first two years of their existence, they received one hundred complaints. Last year alone, it was over 43,000.
ASA remit has expanded greatly since 1962. From non-broadcast electronic media in 1995, to TV and radio ads in 2004, to companies’ own claims on their own websites and social media accounts in 2011. they’ve seen the birth of the internet, the rise of social media, the expansion of the global market and many societal changes.
But the heart of their work remains: to keep ads legal, decent, honest and truthful.
For sixty years, that mission has defined everything they do. ASA system, supported through the buy-in of advertisers, agencies, media and platforms, helps them ensure ads are following the rules. They know that when people are made aware of their work and how they function, trust increases, not just in the ASA but in ads too.
The past five years at the ASA – and the ad industry as a whole – have been marked by adapting to an ever-more online world. So they’ve kept innovating, utilising new technology and conducting research to ensure our rules are protecting the public. To do that, they called on the ongoing commitment of the industry. This year, the ASA launched the IPP – a world first pilot with platforms including Google, Meta, TikTok, Twitter, Snap, Amazon Ads and Yahoo, to ensure consistency in how they raise awareness of advertising rules with advertisers and how they deal with non-compliant ads. Programmes like this are a key part of the ASA evolution.
The ASA is developing new machine-learning based tools to help them proactively find and remove irresponsible ads, including on social media. They’re expanding data science capabilities to identify and tackle ads that break the rules, both at pace and scale. And they’ve invested in supporting responsible businesses to help them get ads right before they run them. The ASA is on course for delivering 1,000,000 pieces of advice and training this year alone. Steadily, ASA work has shifted from reactive complaints to proactive and preventative action.
But the increasingly integral role the internet is playing in our lives also raises challenges. Last week, the ASA 100 Children Report showed how potentially three and a half million social media accounts are owned by under-18s who have given false ages, making it more likely they will see age-restricted ads. Just as the ASA has had to develop its work, advertisers too need to ensure that they’re ensuring that their age-restricted ads aren’t delivered to young people. Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has just launched new guidance in this space, and future projects will continue to research what children are seeing online and how advertisers should use social media responsibly.
The ASA also has a kay role to play when it comes to combating perhaps the most important issue of our time: climate change. This year they published research on consumer understanding of green claims in ads, as part of the Climate Change and Environment project. The ASA know that the public is increasingly engaged with their carbon footprint and want to make ethical environmental choices. Advertisers need to be honest about their environmental impact, and they will continue to ensure that regulation here is effective and thorough.
It’s been a fascinating and rewarding sixty years, filled with changes and they couldn’t have anticipated back in 1962. So what will the next sixty years of ad regulation look like? Undoubtedly the online ad-sphere will continue to expand, but what will that involve? How will the metaverse, AI-generated content, even wearable technology change advertising? The ASA can’t predict the future, they know that change is inevitable and they’re excited to embrace it head on.
But they expect one thing to remain the same: the ASA will be here doing all they can to make sure UK advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful.
Source image: ASA
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