ASA to regulate web marketing by ad bombing offenders

The Advertising Standards Authority is being handed new powers to regulate marketing across the web and plans to tackle offenders by ad bombing them on Google.

ASA to regulate web marketing by ad bombing offenders

While the ASA already has jurisdiction over paid-for online advertising and sales promotions, it currently can’t apply its rules to misleading or otherwise problematic marketing on a company’s own website.

“If Company A, for example, had a list of prices and products that was misleading on their own website, the ASA couldn’t have taken action because it wasn’t in its remit,” a spokesperson for the ASA said.

Under the new remit, the ASA’s rules – those found in the Committee of Practices (CAP) code for Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing – will apply in full to all online marketing.

The move follows growing industry frustration that the authority was unable to act in too many cases. Last year alone, the ASA couldn’t take action over some 3,500 complaints made from a total of 28,000 – leaving one in eight online complaints unanswered.

Online tactics

The ASA remains largely toothless, with no authority to issue fines if marketing breaches the rules laid out in the CAP code. Normally, companies simply agree not to run ads again.

Under its new online remit, the ASA will also work with search engines to put a spanner in the works of marketing campaigns it has ruled against to ensure consumers are made aware.

We’ll purchase ad words so that anyone searching for the advertiser will see a link to the ruling

“We can’t issue fines, but we work with Google and other search engines and can remove paid-for search links,” the spokesman said. “We’ll also purchase ad words so that anyone searching for the advertiser will see a link to the ruling.”

Once it comes into force next March, the new remit will also allow the ASA to enforce marketing rules on a company in any space under its control, including on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

“Previously on Facebook we could look at banners, but if the information was on, say, a company group or site within Facebook we couldn’t do anything,” the spokesperson told PC Pro. “The new remit means we could take action if a company was using its social networking presence as a marketing tool that went against the code.”

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