Recognising Ads: Overview

Mar 23rd '23

Section 2 of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code deals with the recognition of marketing communications and requires that they are obviously identifiable as such. These rules apply to all marketing communications, regardless of the targeting or medium.


Most ads and other marketing communications are obviously recognisable as advertising purely by virtue of their content and the context in which they appear e.g., display ads in newspapers, ‘promoted’ posts on social media, leaflets, etc.  Some ads are, due to their close resemblance to editorial content or other material, harder for consumers to identify as advertising and therefore must take additional measures to ensure that it is clear that they are advertising.


  • Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such

The elements that make an ad obviously identifiable will vary depending on the medium and where it appears, and this requirement applies to everything from a direct mailing envelope to a video on a social media platform. Because of this, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ solution.


  • Take care when using new technologies

When marketing in new media or using new technologies, it’s important to remember that the same principles of recognising ads will still apply. Irrespective of the platform, it needs to be easily identifiable to consumers when they’re looking at an ad.


It is the responsibility of advertisers and publishers to cross-apply these principles as soon as they start using a new platform or format.  The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will continue to apply the same media-neutral rules within the CAP Code and regulate new mediums in the same manner as current media.


  • Consider all aspects of the Code

Marketers should be aware that in some cases, failing to make an advert identifiable could also cause fear or distress without justifiable reason, or be considered materially misleading.  There are also some instances where the identity of the marketer is considered material information that must be included in the ad.


Source: CAP


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s Advice Online entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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