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ASA to make every ad a responsible ad

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced its new Five Year Strategy to “Make every ad a responsible ad” in its 2013 Annual Report.

Members should take notice, as this more active role in advertising and marketing regulation will mean that marketers must not think they are safe just because no-one complained about their advertisements, the ASA may still come knocking.

ASA focuses on issue of socially responsible ads
The ASA had a busy 2103 tackling misleading adverts, especially on pricing; looking at the issue of what is a socially responsible ad in areas ranging from food advertising to children, payday loan and charity advertising and issues of body confidence.

It also provided training and advice to the industry through the AdviceOnline webpages, going out to business exhibitions to help SMEs understand the advertising codes, and ran Advice: am – a series of breakfast seminars on a number of topics.

ASA takes action in the online advertising arena
Following the extension of the ASA’s remit to online advertising in 2011, its work in this area has increased. Last year it looked at copycat websites, where online companies offer services like passport or driving licence renewals that look like they are the official provider or authorised by them.

The ASA also looked at the issue of bloggers who are paid to write about a product or service online, and the issue of children’s use of social media, especially the issue of inappropriate age related content that children see as a result of not being honest regarding their age when registering and what can be done about this.

Marketing of e-cigarettes consultation
The marketing of e-cigarettes has been an issue as there are no specific rules in place at present, as the product only came onto the market in recent years. Advertising of e-cigarettes began with a TV ad in January 2013 and grew across all marketing channels through the year. As regulation from Europe is not going to appear for at least another two years, CAP issued a consultation on the issue and is currently accessing the responses received.

Children’s exposure to alcohol advertising
The ASA also launched a compliance investigation and commissioned research on whether there had been scheduling breaches of the codes following Ofcom’s research into children’s exposure to alcohol and advertising on TV. 10 adjudications were published, nine of which found scheduling breaches. Following on from this BCAP updated it guidance to make it clearer and easier to understand.

Marketing food and drink to children
The issue of food marketing to children has been in the news for some time and during 2013 the ASA and CAP looked at evidence of food and soft drink advertising to assess whether there was an issue. CAP has commissioned a comprehensive literature review in this area looking at the online and digital marketing of food and drink to children. The ASA is also conducting a survey of food ads, focusing on those online to assess whether the rules are being broken.

This proactive element of the ASA’s work will increase over the five years of their new strategy in order to build confidence in consumers that issues are being tackled and that the self- and co-regulatory system is working to protect consumers but also allow businesses to grow and prosper.

Janine Paterson, Solicitor & Legal Manager, DMA

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