A new blog by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) explores the ways that ensuring advertising compliance has changed over the last decade.
Here we look at these changes, and what they mean for you.
- What are CAP and the ASA?
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) sets rules for advertising in the UK. Alongside the ASA – which polices and enforces advertising standards – the CAP Code delivers ‘regulation for non-regulated firms’.
Any company advertising in the UK, even if not governed by an industry body like the Financial Conduct Authority, needs to abide by its rules.
You can read more about the ASA and CAP in our blog on How to comply with the CAP code.
How has compliance changed over the last decade?
In the ASA blog, CAP compliance team member Daniel Ware explores the ways that keeping advertising compliant have evolved.
The biggest change has come in the huge growth of digital and online advertising.
As the blog says, ‘as technology and media platforms evolve, marketers have found new ways to engage with their audiences. The ASA has adapted to meet this challenge by extending its online remit and the range of complaints it investigates on behalf of consumers’.
Advertising regulatory priorities ten years ago
Before 2010, although marketers were using online channels, regulations had not yet caught up. They were still adapting to the new digital environment.
The bulk of the ASA’s compliance work at the time was still focused on national and local broadcast and print media advertising. Oversight generally took the form of monitoring national, local and magazine media to make sure ads stuck to the rules.
A shift from offline to online
In 2010, the ASA extended its online remit to include promotions on companies’ websites and social media platforms.
This extended remit, covering what the ASA called ‘online advertiser-owned ads’, brought with it a huge shift in focus.
With the regulatory landscape extended to cover all types of organisational websites, the supervisory workload grew hugely overnight.
New advertising platforms also brought new challenges.
Social media – a new focus for advertising regulation
Some advertisers did not properly label social media to distinguish between promotional and editorial content on social media platforms. To respond to this, the ASA/CAP built relationships with social media platforms and with advertisers to help raise awareness of what is needed.
By the end of 2016, CAP and the ASA had resolved 41,400 ‘online advertiser-owned’ complaints made about almost 37,000 ads. One in every three cases resolved over the last five years has fallen into this category.
(If you’re regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority your social media faces even stricter regulatory requirements.
Making sure advertisers follow the rulings
The blog acknowledges that most advertisers set out to follow the rules – and even those who break them tend to do so unintentionally.
When a complaint is upheld, the vast majority of advertisers abide by the decision.
Training is put on by the ASA and CAP to help firms meet the standards required. Proactive projects with entire sectors are also designed to improve understanding of the rules and encourage advertisers to make changes where needed.
Tackling persistent offenders
If advertisers refuse to follow the rules even when they’ve been pulled up on their failings, additional sanctions kick in.
These sanctions were extended in tandem with the expansion of the regulator’s online remit.
The ASA/CAP now work with search engine providers, placing ads highlighting advertisers who are breaking the rules. Typically these appear alongside the rule-breaking ads and are designed to make potential customers think twice about using the company.
Again working with the search engines, the ASA/CAP also have the power to remove advertisers’ paid-for search advertising in its entirety.
Measures like these aim to penalise rule-breakers, and encourage advertisers to comply. Since they were put in place, the online ads of 63 online businesses have been suspended and the ASA/CAP have run 73 of their own online ad campaigns.
If firms still fail to cooperate, they face the threat of prosecution. This is a last resort, but in the last two years referrals to Trading Standards have resulted in 18 websites being taken down, one criminal conviction and two ongoing prosecutions.
How will the next ten years look?
How about looking ahead to the next ten years?
Ongoing evolution of media and technology will mean changes to the way CAP and the ASA regulate.
Otherwise, the regulatory bodies’ aims remain the same – to ensure ads remain Legal, Decent, Honest and Truthful.
Stay on the right side of the ASA and CAP
Whether you fall under another regulator’s remit or not, you should follow, and know how you can keep on the right side of the ASA, CAP and any other regulator that oversees your marketing.
How can we help you?
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When you face business or regulatory challenges, we can provide solutions that are tailor-made to your needs with a view to releasing your energies to focus on your clients.
We work both within individual teams and across many departments to offer a complete solution, with a range of cost effective, compliance and marketing solutions including copy advice which are uniquely suited to supporting firms.
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