Wednesday, April 6th, 2011
Last week I attended a conference at P&G on the new Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) digital advertising sanctions. As you have no doubt realised by now, the ASA have recently extended the digital remit; James blogged about the developments a few weeks ago, and – what with being a full month into the new regulations – I thought now would be an ideal opportunity to update you on how this all seems to be panning out.
First – the basics
The ASA is an industry-run organization set up by advertising agencies to handle complaints about advertising. It is self-regulated, and contracted to Ofcom. The ASA has the “CAP Code” (committee of advertising practice code) which is a code that previously has just addressed prize promotion, display ads, paid searches, online videos, and SMS messaging (there is a separate code, BCAP, for broadcast advertising).
Next – a summary of the changes
The extended digital remit now covers [deep breath]
“Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods , services , opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities.”
…and below I’ve outlined two areas of the extended remit (that specifically relate to social media) in more detail, broken down with examples for what each amendment means in practical terms.
- Anything that is directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods
Example: a Boots website page that shows a brand’s product is answerable as a third party for all published information. This means that if they publish the wrong information, they are liable, not the brand.
N.B. Customer views are outside the remit. However they will be inside the remit if they are in fact a company pretending to be a consumer. All marketing communication (marcoms) must not falsely claim / imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside it’s trade, business, craft or profession. Marcoms must make clear their commercial intent at all times i.e. If competitor hotels pose as consumers and make reviews on Trip Advisor, this makes them within the remit.
- Anything that is directly connected with the supply of a service.
Example: a service like your phone or broadband, so a Virgin broadband page, or other non-paid-for spaces online, under a brand’s control.
N.B. User generated content (UGC) falls within the remit if the website owner adopts and incorporates it within their marketing strategy.
Example: the Guinness Facebook page. They have their own photo albums where they have posted up pictures of their fans drinking Guinness. This would be in the remit. The bottom half of the page has pictures that the fans have posted up themselves. These would fall outside of the remit.
Example: Clinique on Facebook. The brand responded to a query about one of their products with a link to the product and information about it – this falls within remit. Someone commenting on how wonderful a product is, and Clinique saying ‘thank you’, is out of remit.
N.B. Be careful not to miss or give out the wrong information!!
Example: Someone on the Kettle chips page was quote as saying “Thanks for your chips as I can eat them despite my coeliacs disease”, and Kettle chips responded saying “No worries!” Below this, someone posted saying “Actually, you can only eat two of the whole range. The rest will affect your disease”. This would make Kettle chips’ statement within remit, as this is misleading by omission.
N.B. Retweets can fall within remit.
Example: Someone tweets, saying there is a Debenhams sale – if this is retweeted by Debenhams, and then someone else complains there is no sale, then this falls within the remit and Debenhams would be liable.
Celebrity tweets – famous people being paid to say good things about a product need to be disclosed. If what they have said has been fed to them by a marketer then they fall within remit. If they are paid by a brand, but also just like the brand and want to talk about it then they are out of remit BUT they should make it clear when they are being paid by the brand.
The good news is there is some content that is excluded by the remit completely, they include –
- Press releases and other PR material
- Editorial content
- Political ads
- Corporate reports
- Natural listings on a search engine or price comparison site
- Heritage ads – where an ad is outside of a brands current promotional strategy (an old ad)
- Investor relations material
- Content promoting causes or ideas
- Marcoms in foreign media – BUT they will be within remit if they are targeted to UK consumers or the site is based in a country where ASA doesn’t offer cross-border complaints system
They have also introduced new sanctions for those that ignore the code.
The new sanctions are:
- Enhanced name and shame on the ASA website
- Removal of paid ads that link to non-complying content
- ASA paid-for ads highlighting non-complying advertisers (in extreme cases only)
Now, this might all seem a lot to take in, but don’t panic! It’s important to note that if something is ‘in remit’ it just means that you are answerable in the case of any complaints; it does not mean you will be automatically sanctioned.
If you’re still confused or want more info on how this impacts word of mouth or our work at 1000heads, post a comment below or get in touch. You also might want to check out the full CAP advice or look through the full deck presented at the conference, below.