Companies in the UK will soon have to ensure content on their websites and social network pages comply with rules set out by The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), or face being ‘named and shamed’ as part of a new initiative. From March next year, the rules covering misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children will apply in full to all online marketing by all sectors, businesses and organisations, regardless of size.
The ASA’s current remit online includes ads in paid-for space and sales promotions wherever they appear. The extension now means full advertising regulations will now also apply to parts of the internet that are ‘free of charge’ (unlike paid adverts) charge, such as brands’ own websites and online areas like Twitter and Facebook.
The online extension has “the protection of children and consumers at its heart”, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said.
However, in an effort to protect freedom of speech online, the rules will focus on ads that sell products rather than journalistic and editorial content, the ASA said.
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body responsible for writing the regulations, said it had decided to extend the ASA’s powers in response to a formal recommendation from a wide cross-section of UK industry.
The ASA will have the ability to demand the removal of paid-for links to pages hosting a banned ad, with the agreement of search engines.
It could also place its own advertisements online highlighting an advertiser’s continued refusal to comply with a ruling.
The ASA urged website owners and agencies to become familiar with the new rules ahead of the March 1 deadline.
ASA chairman Lord Chris Smith said: “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart. “We have received more than 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn’t deal with, but from 1 March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA.”
For more details on the ASA’s new code, click here.