Under cover of a marketing blitz promoting the launch of the much-vaunted but ultimately underwhelming CAP Admark Consumer Confidence in On-line Ads Scheme, the CAP and the ASA recently made a significant change to their policy in respect of advertising on-line
Who: The Advertising Standards Authority and the Committee of Advertising Practice
When: October 2000
Under cover of a marketing blitz promoting the launch of the much-vaunted but ultimately underwhelming CAP "Admark" "Consumer Confidence in On-line Ads" Scheme (see our separate article on this topic), the CAP and the ASA recently made a significant change to their policy in respect of advertising on-line. For some while now the British Code of Advertising has applied to advertisements in "non-broadcast electronic media." With 1,200 web pages being added to the world wide web every minute, however, the ASA's policy of considering all complaints in respect of any part of UK-based websites provided they appeared to be promoting a product in some way, was stretching its limited resources to the limits. Something had to be done, and finally in October 2000 the "something" was the introduction of a much narrower definition of on-line marketing which the ASA/CAP system (Britain's self-regulatory code for all non-broadcast advertising in the UK) would cover. The new definition was: (1) advertisements in "paid for" space (2) sales promotions appearing anywhere on-line and (3) advertisements and sales promotions appearing in members' commercial e-mails.
Why this matters:
This is a significant retreat for self regulation. It means that unless it relates to a particular sales promotion (for example, a prize competition), any website content promoting the website owner's own products can completely disregard Britain's advertising self regulation bible, the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion. Of course legal controls and regulations will continue to apply where relevant, but unless the advertisement is paid for, sent by email or deals with a promotion, the CAP/ASA will wash their hands in respect of any complaint which they receive about it. Some might regard this as a sensible, realistic move designed to prevent the self regulatory system being seen to be powerless against a tidal wave of on-line marketing. Others might see this, however, as a move more likely to achieve the opposite of the objective of the ASA's Admark scheme, namely ever-decreasing consumer confidence in the on-line selling process.