Seven months into the extension of its remit to most website content, the UK ad uber regulator has revealed the dramatic impact of the change and how it has coped and also launched its promised “name and shame” microsite for online CAP Code breakers. Stephen Groom reports.
Topic: Online advertising
Who: the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA")
When: October 2011
The ASA has taken stock and one significant enforcement step to mark well over six months having elapsed since the "big bang" of its remit extending to most website content and other non paid-for space on-line under advertisers' control.
The enforcement step has been the setting up of a "naming and shaming" microsite calling out serious offenders under the new regime.
Much was made of this when the remit extension was first announced, so it is interesting that it has taken this long for the sanction to materialise, and then for just four advertisers to be initially named as "traders who have continued to make claims on their digital sites that do not comply with our Codes, despite repeated requests for changes from our Compliance teams."
The list has recently increased to six and may since have grown still further, but these are still not large numbers.
Some might say this is a healthy sign as it suggests only very limited non compliance.
This seems unlikely, however, given that the recent Annual Statement by the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice confesses that when the new remit arrived in March 2011, "the sheer deluge of complaints took us by surprise" and complaint levels have been more than double what was anticipated.
However, the true reason for the delay and limited initial numbers is more likely to be more prosaic, namely that since the named and shamed are by definition recidivists who have repeatedly failed to follow ASA dictates, there was always going to be a longish lead time before the shaming started in earnest.
Why this matters:
The microsite tells us that once advertisers appear, they will continue to do so until they "have appropriately amended their content to ensure compliance with the Codes.".
But just how much of a deterrent is this? The author keyed the name of each of the 6 advertisers shamed as of 2 November 2011 into a certain well-known search engine. No link to the ASA microsite appeared in the first page of search results for any of the six.
The ASA reports that after the initial "splurge" of complaints there has been a "gradual decline" in recent months. Hopefully this decline will continue as awareness of the CAP Code and the ASA grows amongst the small to medium sized businesses who the ASA says are the typical advertisers falling foul of the new remit. Whether the threat of making a guest appearance on the microsite will materially help concentrate advertisers' minds, however, remains to be seen.
The naming shaming microsite can be found here.