Keeping your online marketing on the right side of the law

How to make sure your online adverts are legal, decent, honest and truthfulIn just over two weeks’ time – on 1 March – the  Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) – the UK advertising regulator – will take on more responsibilities.  It will ensure that the marketing information on company websites and other online media is legal, decent, honest and truthful.

Under these changes, the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) will apply fully to online marketing messages.

What does this mean for online content owners?

Your online information – and that includes promotional sales content wherever it appears – plus paid-for advertising including pop-up ads, viral ads, promotions, research etc – must, from 1 March be within ASA rules.

The ASA can ask owners of content that does not comply with the rules to remove or change it.  If the owner does not respond, s/he could face heavy sanctions.

The CAP Code is the most recent example of changes to consumer protection law, for example EU rules on fake blogs (known as flogs) and websites devoted to public ratings of goods and services ban unfair online sales practices  e.g. companies posting to flogs, or an employee of a company posting favourable reviews online about his or her own company.

Many EU countries have enforced, or are working to boost online consumer protection within their domestic laws.

How does your content measure up?

But making sure your content is within the rules – in other words, that it is: legal, decent, honest and truthful, can be easier said than done.  If you are unsure for any reason, seek help to be on the safe side.

In the UK, for example, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP), the body that lays down the rules for advertisers and media owners to follow, provides full advertising compliance training and advice.  CAP says that its services can help advertisers to:

  • Ensure ad campaigns stand out without breaking the rules
  • Understand what is and isn’t acceptable to the ASA
  • Keep up-to-date with the latest developments and guidance in ad regulation
  • Help avoid reputational and commercial damage that can come with an upheld ASA adjudication

Looking through the areas mentioned on this list shows that it’s certainly worth knowing as much as you possibly can when putting together – or revising your marketing content and related media marketing activities.

If you are outside of the UK, contact the advertising regulatory body in your country for information about how to make sure your online advertising content is on the right side of the law.

For more information or to sign up for CAP services, visit the CAP website.

Post written by DEBBIE THOMAS on 9 February 2011.