FAQs: Explaining the Online Advertising Taskforce & its Action Plan

Nov 30th '23

Why has the Online Advertising Taskforcebeen established? What are its objectives? And what do Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) members need to do? Read on for a full explainer.  


Is the Online Advertising Taskforce linked to the Online Advertising Programme? 

Yes – the Online Advertising Taskforce has been established as part of the next phase of the Online Advertising Programme (OAP), which is Government’s ongoing review of how online advertising is regulated. You can read more about the OAP here (please note that this article dates from July 2023, but it provides useful context).


Why was the Taskforce established? 

When Government published its response to the Online Advertising Programme (OAP) consultation in July 2023, it recognised the value of existing industry-led regulation like the IAB Gold Standard, but identified two key areas of harm that it said require a more robust focus: illegal advertising (such as scam ads) and the inappropriate exposure of children to adverts for products and services that are illegal to sell to them.


To address these harms, Government confirmed that the OAP would take a two-track approach. First, an ‘Online Advertising Taskforce’ would be established to identify and deliver a programme of work to explore how industry-led, non-legislative initiatives can help to address harms that are in -scope of the OAP. The second strand of activity would be a further consultation on proposals for a new legislative framework to regulate companies in the digital advertising ecosystem.


What are the Taskforce’s objectives? 

The Taskforce brings together Government and industry representatives to deliver on two objectives:


  • To understand and improve the evidence around in-scope harms
  • To identify ways in which industry-led initiatives and standards can be enhanced or further developed to tackle in-scope harms


The in-scope harms are illegal ads and age-restricted ads.


Who is part of the Taskforce?  

The Taskforce is chaired by the Rt Hon. John Whittingdale, Minister of State for DCMS, and co-chaired by Mark Lund. Chair of Asbof. It includes representatives from regulators and industry bodies including: the Advertising Standards Authority, the Advertising Association, IAB UK, ISBA, the IPA, the NMA and Stop Scams and Tech UK. You can find a full list of the members listed here. From the IAB, Christie Dennehy-Neil, Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, sits on the Taskforce.


What is the Taskforce Action Plan?  

The Taskforce has released an Action Plan detailing how it plans to deliver on its stated objectives (set out above). The Taskforce states that the Plan is “a living document and we may publish further updates as needed going forward”.


What does the Action Plan include?  

The Action Plan sets out a number of principles and corresponding actions that Taskforce members will deliver against the two key Taskforce objectives. The key principles under each objective are as follows:


Objective 1: Improve evidence of in-scope harms 

  • The Taskforce will improve available research and build up evidence base about in-scope harms
  • The Taskforce will facilitate the gathering and sharing of information about in-scope harms across the supply chain


Objective 2: Enhance initiatives to tackle in-scope harms 

  • The Taskforce will improve awareness and promote best practice to tackle in-scope harms
  • The Taskforce will look to increase compliance with regulations to minimise the occurrence of in-scope harmful ads in the paid-for space online
  • The Taskforce will raise existing industry standards and improve diligence in the ecosystem


You can find more detail on the actions under each objective by downloading the Action Plan here.


What is IAB UK’s role as a Taskforce member? 

As a member of the Taskforce, IAB UK will work with members to contribute to delivery of all relevant actions. Of particular relevance to IAB members is an action under objective two that commits Taskforce members including the IAB, the AA, ISBA and the IPA to increase adoption of the IAB Gold Standard. The IAB will lead on this area of the Action Plan.


What does the Action Plan say in relation to the Gold Standard?  

The Plan states: “IAB UK and other relevant Taskforce members (including ISBA, the IPA and the AA) will work together to increase adoption of the Gold Standard certification. This will help to improve adoption and use of technical tools and standards such as Demand Chain Object (a technical open-source standard provided to the market by the IAB Tech Lab) that capture information about the supply path of individual ads, to support the provision and sharing of information to trace the source of bad ads. ISBA and the IAB will work together to encourage advertisers to adopt relevant Gold Standard requirements that aid the identification and elimination of bad actors in the advertising supply chain.”


What does the industry think?  

IAB UK, ISBA, the IPA and the AA have put out a joint statement calling on the industry to get behind the Action Plan:


Effectively addressing illegal advertising, such as scam ads, and increasing the protection of children requires a united approach and meaningful collaboration between industry bodies and the Government. It’s not something that any one of us can do alone. This is why the Online Advertising Taskforce has been created and it’s that shared focus that has informed the Action Plan released today, which sets out both to improve the evidence of in-scope harms and enhance existing initiatives to tackle them.  


Together with our respective members, we -– the Advertising Association, IAB UK, IPA and ISBA -– are all working to improve the advertising landscape. However, the Action Plan is the first time that we are taking a coordinated approach to further establish and evolve these projects -– such as the IAB Gold Standard, or ISBA’s Influencer Marketing Code of Conduct -– and to make best practice a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have. The input and support of our members is essential to deliver this. In short, we all have a part to play. Positive progress here will also support our industry’s wider efforts to improve public trust in advertising, which we all have a vested interest in.  


We urge all businesses across the supply chain to read the Action Plan and engage with us over the coming months to make the most of this opportunity to strengthen our network of industry-led regulation. In parallel, the Advertising Standards Authority has just launched its new 5-year strategy focused on preventing irresponsible ads and enforcement of existing advertising rules, including through mechanisms developed with platforms and intermediaries. 


We will continue to work with government on the Online Advertising Programme as it develops legislative proposals for consultation. It is essential that decisions on potential regulatory interventions are informed by robust evidence about where and how harmful ads are appearing and that solutions are targeted and proportionate. 


Stephen Woodford, Chief Executive, Advertising Association 

Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK 

Paul Bainsfair, Director General, IPA 

Phil Smith, Director General, ISBA 


What should IAB members be doing?  

First of all, read the Action Plan, update your teams internally, and identify any specific initiatives or workstreams that are relevant to your business where you can take action now or get involved in the future.  For starters, if you’re not already Gold Standard certified you can start that process here. Companies that are already Gold Standard certified will need to adhere to the latest updates by their next Gold Standard renewal date, or by 2 April 2024 – whichever comes first.


At IAB UK, we will be continuing to keep our members updated and ask that you actively engage with our work relating to the Action Plan. Get in touch at policy@iabuk.com if you’d like to part of our Public Policy & Regulatory Affairs Working Group.


Head of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Christie Dennehy-Neil, states: “This is a unique opportunity to work with our members, industry partners and Government to demonstrate the effectiveness of self-regulation, which has a long and strong history in our industry. We have made good progress when it comes to building a responsible advertising ecosystem – but we need to keep that up and respond to challenges. If we don’t, we risk leaving gaps that the Government will look to fill. 


“The IAB Gold Standard is an essential part of the Taskforce’s Action Plan and it’s vital that we double down on rallying support for it so that it becomes a non-negotiable part of the equation. For suppliers that means getting certified or renewing your certification against the latest criteria launched in October to ensure you remain certified. And for advertisers it means working with certified partners wherever possible. If we come together across the industry behind the Gold Standard and other valuable initiatives outlined in the Action Plan, we really can make a difference, raise the bar and ensure we are doing our utmost to protect consumers – and the industry – from harmful ads.” 


Does the Action Plan lay out a timeframe by which the objectives should be met?  

No – the intention is that the Taskforce will work to deliver the actions set out in the plan over the course of 2024, but there’s no set time limit. A more detailed plan and timeline will be developed for each workstream within the action plan.


The Government has signalled that it plans to introduce new legislation through the OAP– .Hhow does the work of the Taskforce link to these legislative proposals?


While Government has confirmed that it does plan to introduce legislation, it’s not clear yet how the work of the Taskforce will inform legislative proposals, or what the timeline for a further consultation on legislation will be. We are pressing Government for clarity on that point and will provide an update when we can.


Source: IAB UK


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