No more “no one will ever know” from 1st March

To say that marketing communications campaigns should not be misleading or offensive shouldn’t be anything new to any business owner or marketing team. However are you aware that regulations now apply to digital marketing as well – from website content to posts on Facebook or Twitter pages?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – better known for its independent role in keeping an eye on advertising breaches – will now also be responsible for regulating website and marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under the advertiser’s control, whatever their organisation, size or industry.

In its recently launched awareness raising ad campaign below, the ASA informed businesses that as from March 1st the UK CAP Code (Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing) will apply in full to marketing messages online. This means any organisation’s website (not just domains), as well as their social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook or MySpace, will be subject to the same scrutiny than advertising campaigns.

However the Committee of Advertising Practice is rightly keen to emphasise that “The primary concern of the regulatory system is not to punish advertisers, but to ensure that all advertising is legal, decent, honest and truthful.”

ASA: extends its remit to websites and social media feeds

Why the new regulation?

Companies used to running high profile marketing campaigns will already be well versed with meeting the rules set by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP). It is likely that they will have already translated this approach across the many marketing communications channels they use, be they offline or online.

But some businesses who feel that they are less “visible” may have had no qualms in the past about misleading claims on their websites on the grounds that “no one will ever know”.

Until recently the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) online remit only included ads in paid-for space and sales promotions, and it was powerless to address thousands of other complaints it received. After consultation with a series of industry working groups, the extension of the ASA’s remit was confirmed last September with full implementation from March 1st and now includes marketing communications on organisations’ own websites and in other non-paid-for space under their control.

So yes, a company’s tweets claiming for example that they sell the “cheapest carpets in the world” without any evidence will be deemed to be in breach of the CAP code.

Responsible marketing communications

However as the CAP is also keen to point out, on their website, the new rules are “not there to catch you out or to unnecessarily curb what you want to say and how you want to say it. It simply sets out standards that society has deemed necessary, through a process of consultation, to protect consumers and businesses alike. To that end, it promotes and preserves organisations’ right to advertise responsibly – and those that do shouldn’t find it burdensome to comply with.”

How to comply

The ASA is inviting every business to ensure they adhere to the non-broadcast advertising rules, as set out by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the CAP Code, by seeking relevant help and advice to ensure that the marketing messages on their websites and social networks meet key criteria of being:

Decent, Honest, Legal and True.

The first port of call for advice in any organisation should, of course, be your marketing team or marketing agency. However don’t feel that you can’t talk with the ASA. It is all about good communications and the CAP advisers can be contacted on 020 7492 2100 for guidance, training and advice services. They now offer a website audit service if you are unsure whether your messages comply with the new rules.

How would the ASA find out if you don’t comply?

For companies who attempt to mislead their customers, it will only be a matter of time, before someone complains. But remember the new rules also  give competitors an even stronger vested interest in monitoring their rivals claims.

A happy ending…

However strenuous those regulations may seem, they should be widely welcomed. By allowing the ASA to crack down on misleading digital marketing claims both businesses and consumers, who may have experienced false claims, can be more confident about the messages they read. And in the end this is really what it should be all about, a customer experience you can trust!

More details are available from:

The Advertising Standard Authority’s website:

The Committee of Advertising Practice’s website:

Category: Advertising, Marketing Communications, Marketing Tools, Social Networks, Twitter | Tags: , Comments Off on No more “no one will ever know” from 1st March

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