Since 1 March 2011, the UK’s CAP Code of Non-broadcast advertising has extended to much more online commercial communication than it did before. The extension was driven initially by concerns over children and other vulnerable groups, but Simon Fisher looks at how it impacts digital marketing generally.
Topic: Online advertising
Who: Advertising Standards Authority
When: 1 March 2011
Law stated as at: 1 March 2011
The current non-broadcast code is the 12th edition of the British Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code), which came into force from 1 September 2010 and is enforced by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
The CAP Code applies to ads in newspapers, catalogues, posters and other media, but until now only regulated internet ads in paid-for space, such as banner and pop-up ads or paid for keyword advertising on search engines, plus online promotions.
From 1 March 2011, the remit of the CAP Code and the ASA has been extended to cover ads and marketing communications by companies on their own websites and in other non-paid for space which they control, like Facebook and Twitter.
The remit of the CAP Code applies to "marketing communications" which include any type of communication for goods and services which is primarily intended to sell something, although not necessarily setting out a price or seeking an immediate financial transaction.
This will, for example, include "advergames" (video games used to promote a product or organisation) and user-generated content from private individuals which is adopted and incorporated into an advertiser's own marketing communications.
The CAP Code does not, however, regulate any types of communication which are expressly excluded from its remit, which includes for example, classified private ads, press releases, editorial content, corporate reports and investor relations
Why this matters:
These changes represent a major expansion of the ASA's remit and have signification implications for businesses. Every company needs to designate responsibility for reviewing their corporate websites to check whether material on them is caught by the extended CAP Code and, if it is, that such material is compliant.
While the obligation to comply with the CAP Code may have been outsourced to third party ad agencies, this increase in the Code's coverage will also now mean that anyone responsible for contributing to a company's website or Facebook page or for blogging or tweeting on the company's behalf will also need to be aware of and comply with the CAP Code.
In addition to the ASA's present sanctions, CAP member bodies have also agreed to new sanctions that will apply to the extended remit, which include:
- an enhanced name and shame policy – providing details of an advertiser and the non-compliant marketing communication on the ASA website;
- removal of paid-for search advertising – ads that link to the page hosting the non-compliant marketing communication may be removed with the agreement of the search engines; and
- ASA paid-for seach ads – the ASA could place ads online highlighting an advertiser's continued non-compliance.
CAP has published a 14-page paper on interpeting the new rules and training materials on its website.