Ads on social media sites will soon have to comply with the same code of conduct as traditional media, following a new industry-wide initiative. The move has been designed to help increase protection for consumers and children, by holding online ads accountable for being honest and responsible.
Set to begin this Autumn, the UK internet industry (including the Internet Advertisising Bureau) has joined forces to agree an extension to the CAP Code to claims on companies’ own websites, which would extend the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) remit in digital media. This code is designed to ensure that the marketing industry adopts the same self-regulatory standards for all marketing communications on the internet as it does across traditional marketing channels.
Currently, complaints made about marketing communications on social media sites, including blogs, social networks and company websites, are not covered by the CAP Code. All other marketing communications activity in paid-for space online – such as search marketing and display advertising – is already within the ASA’s remit and subject to the CAP Code.
It is anticipated that the extended remit will come into force during the third quarter of 2010, once formally ratified by CAP and the ASA, and after appropriate consultation.
This announcement follows the successful resolution of funding collection issues in November 2009. It also represents a response to recommendations made in recent high level reports such as the Byron Review, Digital Britain and the Buckingham Report.
Rae Burdon, Chief Operating Officer at the AA, said: “Contrary to general understanding, much advertising online is already in remit and there’s a very high level of compliance with the existing rules. There are some complex issues in the remaining space which require careful analysis.
“The industry has delivered to CAP a clear mandate that first and foremost will protect consumers and children, that will also – crucially – protect editorial content, and that will, if accepted, maintain CAP/ASA’s reputation as a world-class operation. The whole industry has pulled together to make this happen. What’s important now is effective implementation and raising consumer and stakeholder awareness.”
The non-broadcast and broadcast Advertising Codes were reviewed last year, and a full consultation process has recently been completed. The new Codes are expected to be published this month and will come into effect in the Autumn, at the same time as the new extended digital remit.
The extension will ensure that online all marketing activity will be ‘responsible, legal, honest and truthful’.
This will ensure the restrictions on marketing to children and age-restricted products, such as alcohol, in paid-for space will apply to the likes of websites and social networking sites.
For example, if a beer brand decided to set up a fan page on Bebo then it would be in breach of the Code because Bebo is aimed predominantly at under 18s. Or if false claims are made on a Facebook fan page, then there will be a right of reply.
The IAB has played a fundamental role in shaping the initiative. Nick Stringer, Internet Advertising Bureau director of regulatory affairs, said: “This is a significant step for both advertising and the internet.
“The industry has come together to make recommendations that will ensure internet users continue to enjoy and benefit from digital media with the knowledge that it is backed up by a world-class independent regulator, the Advertising Standards Authority. The IAB supports the proposals and will be working with the ASA and the rest of the industry to ensure they are implemented in the autumn,” Stringer added.
The digital remit extension was ratified by the Council of the Advertising Association last month.
The Council of the Advertising Association reflects its full membership, which comprises: BSkyB, Channel 4, Cinema Advertising Association, Data Publishers Association, Direct Marketing Association, Direct Selling Association, Five, GMTV, Incorporated Society of British Advertisers, Internet Advertising Bureau, Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, Institute of Sales Promotion, Marketing Communication Consultants Association, Market Research Society, Newspaper Publishers Association, Newspaper Society, Outdoor Advertising Association, Periodical Publishers Association, Point of Purchase Advertising International, RadioCentre, Royal Mail, Satellite & Cable Broadcasters’ Group, Scottish Newspaper Society, Viacom and Virgin Media Television.