Digital minds: 60 second interview with the ASA’s Guy Parker

Digital Thought Leaders

From March next year, online marketing will come under even greater scrutiny as the UK’s ad watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), extends its remit to cover brand websites and social media activity. As part of our Digital Minds series, Guy Parker, CEO at the ASA, spoke to Netimperative about the challenges of extending the remit, the role of behavioural advertising and the merits of cricket websites...

Guy Parker- ASAHow does your business help people or markets be more efficient or more effective vs traditional approaches?

The ASA is here to ensure that marketing communications are legal, decent, honest and truthful. We want to work with advertisers, not against them, and help them achieve compliance with the rules through cooperation. We provide bespoke advice, training events and guidance as well as comprehensive online resources.

What's most impressed you recently and why?
Industry’s commitment to effective self-regulation in a digital world. The digital remit extension is a big step forward and demonstrates the collective will to enhance protections for consumers online. And it all makes good business sense: trusted advertising is more effective advertising.

What frustrates you most at the moment in digital?
I know there are some concerns about what the ASA’s extended remit will mean in the online space; the frustrating bit is not having case law to demonstrate that there is nothing to fear. The ASA is not here to pounce on every mistake. We far prefer to resolve matters informally, wherever we can.

What was the 'ah!' moment for you - the moment where you suddenly realised the scale the web or digital marketing would play in your business?
The recent exponential increase in complaints from members of the public about companies’ own advertising on their own websites. The ASA has had to reject thousands of complaints in the last few years. We will now be able to look into them. By putting right problems in a proportionate and targeted way, we will benefit consumers, businesses and society.

Many senior directors still just don't get the scale of what’s happening. How do you convince them?
If your advertising on your own website is misleading, harmful or offensive then, from 1 March 2011, you could be subject to unwanted attention from the ASA. There is a six-month period of grace to allow the ASA and CAP to conduct training work to raise awareness and educate business on the requirements of the CAP Code, particularly amongst those who may not previously have been subject to ASA regulation. Make sure you get up to speed.

What’s the most common mistake people make in digital media or marketing?
The kinds of advertising mistakes businesses are making on their own websites are the same that they make in traditional media space: misleading prices, inadequate or non-existent qualifications, unavailable goods etc. It’s the bread and butter stuff that we deal with day-in day-out.

If you could go back in time to a key 'digital moment', where and when would it be – and why?
1 March 2011 will be seen as a key ‘digital moment’. That is when the UK advertising regulatory system, with the support of industry, created amongst the most comprehensive approaches to regulating advertising in online space anywhere in the world.

Where do you spend your time most online, and why?
Work: various media sites. Pleasure:

What are the big changes yet to come, in marketing, media and beyond?
Online Behavioural Advertising (aka Interest Based Advertising). Already under scrutiny in Europe and the US – but a great opportunity for effective self-regulation to show its foresightedness and fleet-footedness.

(For more information on CAPs copy advice, click on the logo below)

For more details on the ASA’s new remit, click here.

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