Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 1 June 2022
Law stated as at: 1 June 2022
Further to an announcement issued earlier this year, the ASA has now commenced a one-year pilot titled “Intermediary and Platform Principles” that explores the regulator’s role online alongside some of the largest companies in the programmatic paid-for advertising supply chain. The pilot is the result of a collaboration between the ASA and various members of the Internet Advertising Board UK (a member of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP)), including various social media platforms. It runs alongside the ASA’s existing collaborative “More Impact Online” strategy, twin-track regulation, and transparent and accountable regulation, and is focused on bringing more transparency to the role online advertising intermediary companies play in the ASA system via programmatic paid-for advertising to help deliver better outcomes for consumers.
With this objective in mind, the ASA has crafted six public-facing principles or objectives that participating companies are to follow. These include requirements that participating companies are to:
- bring to the attention of advertisers or ad agencies that any advertisements aimed at a UK audience are to comply with the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code);
- ensure advertising policies and contractual terms require applicable ads to be in compliance with the CAP Code;
- assist the ASA with the promotion of the public’s and advertisers’ awareness of the ASA system (for example, via the distribution of ASA/CAP regulatory guidance or supporting awareness-raising campaigns initiated via the ASA);
- take measures to bring to the attention of advertisers and ad agencies any tools or controls that can be used to assist their compliance with the CAP Code requirement to minimise children and young persons’ exposure to ads attracting an age targeting restriction (e.g. the advertisement of alcohol products or gambling);
- on receipt of a notice from CAP, act swiftly to remove any non-compliant ad that is subject to a breach of the CAP Code, where the advertiser has failed or refused to amend or withdraw such ad; and
- respond in a timely way to reasonable information requests from the ASA in relation to advertisers’ use of the company’s services to assist any investigations.
The principles seek to formalise the existing work and cooperation participating companies already undertake with the ASA, via the promotion of advertisers’ awareness of advertising rules as they apply to programmatic paid-for advertising and helping the ASA secure compliance where an advertiser refuses to amend or withdraw a non-compliant ad. The principles do not apply to non-programmatically delivered ads or non-paid-for ads, but these will continue to be regulated by the ASA.
Further guidance has been issued by the ASA setting out how participating companies can comply with the principles, with the understanding that these can be met in a number of different ways. Taking this guidance into account, participating companies are to voluntarily provide information to the ASA during the course of the pilot, demonstrating how they operate in accordance with the principles.
Why this matters:
The pilot will run for one year from 1 June 2022, following which the information provided by participating companies and collected by the ASA will be analysed and reported on. The reports will be used to identify areas for improvement and evaluate whether there are any gaps in the ASA’s ability to enforce the CAP Code.
The pilot (which was previously the Online Platforms and Networks Standards proposal, has already been referenced in the government’s Online Advertising Programme launched earlier this year and forms another piece of the bigger picture on the UK’s review of the regulatory framework of paid-for online advertising. Online advertising intermediary companies, advertisers and ad agencies will be interested to see the outcome of the pilot as this will likely inform future formal arrangements that will be put in place in this area with the ASA.