Interactive Jeep Grand Cherokee launch advertising was recently pulled by broadcasters fearful it breached advertising codes. But didn’t regulators endorse a “light touch” regime for ad material one click away from linear ads? In the absence to date of a promised BCAP help note on the area we analyse the current guidance available, or rather the lack of it, at
Topic: Interactive advertising
Who: The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice
Where: High Holborn
When: June 2005
Concerns over interactive advertising regulation arose following the pulling of a Daimler Chrysler interactive TV campaign by a number of broadcasters.
The ad in question was for the launch of the Jeep Grand Cherokee. It had a dedicated advertiser location letting viewers experience the car's acceleration and braking abilities. Included in the material that was one click away from the linear TV ad was footage taken from a US TV commercial showing the Jeep being tested at speed against a number of competing models.
Channel 4 was one broadcaster who continued to run the campaign because of its clear view that neither Ofcom nor the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") had any direct power over non-linear TV commercials. The other broadcasters, however, were evidently not so sure on the point and in late July reports appeared that the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (the ASA's sister body that publishes the Television Advertising Standards Code) was issuing a "Help note" to advertisers unsure about the type of content they could show in their "red button applications."
Marketinglaw's enquiries since then have failed to establish that the vaunted Help note has yet been published. In the meantime, there is "Guidance to broadcasters on the regulation of interactive television services" ("Guidance") which was published by Ofcom in November 2004. This itself was based on a previous document produced by Ofcom's predecessor the ITC. Access it here.
The Guidance records the regulator's view that the regulatory approach should be a light one since the potential detriments faced by viewers of interactive services were "modest." The priority had to be to ensure that viewers were clear about what kind of environment they were in and that programme integrity was maintained. After that, however, the Guidance is pretty much silent on the category of interactive content which consists of "advertising enhancements to advertisements," as in the Daimler Chrysler case.
Attached to the Guidance are the rules for "Interactive enhanced programme services" which Ofcom expects licensees to follow.
Guidance unclear on ad to ad links?
But again these are less than crystal clear on the regulatory position regarding advertising material which is one click away from a linear ad. Rule 1 certainly does indicate that the Ofcom Licensee (the broadcaster in question e.g. Sky or Channel 5) is required to retain full editorial responsibility for all advertising contained on the first screen accessed after the first choice to interact.
Unfortunately, however, the note to this rule only refers to material which is one click away from editorial. Furthermore, its rationale for "one click away" responsibility is "[Ofcom] takes the view that advertising exposed as a direct result of choosing programme enhancement material has not been requested by the viewer and so is the equivalent of advertisements appearing during linear programmes." This makes sense if the "programme" being "enhanced" is editorial, but fails to offer any explanation for a link from a linear ad to further advertising material, something which can hardly be said to be unexpected when the punter clicks a red button in what is already advertising.
There is no other express reference in the rules that we can find to interactive ads that are one click away from linear ads.
The bottom line therefore under the current rules and Guidance available, is that broadcasters appear to retain Code compliance responsibility for any material on screen one click away from linear ads ( although the rationale for this is far from clear if it is intended at all) but any material that is another click beyond that is not apparently regulated by Ofcom at all.
Given the incongruities we highlight, however, it is hardly surprising that broadcasters took divergent views of their responsibilities in this recent case.
Why this matters:
It is imperative that any existing uncertainty is resolved and we look forward to the appearance of BCAP's Helpnote as soon as possible.