The Advertising Standards Authority, the UK advertising regulator, has fielded over 4500 complaints about online marketing. Until now, it has been outside the agency’s purview. The ASA has been responsible for television marketing and paid online advertising, but after numerous complaints, it will now look at non paid sites, like Twitter and Facebook. Effective as of March 1 of this year, online marketers will face stricter regulations.
What brought about the change? After 2500 complaints last year alone, the ASA added to its staff to deal with the extra complaints. Matt Wilson, of the ASA, says, “The principle that ads have to be legal, decent, honest and truthful is now going to extend to companies claims on their own websites.” Internet users will be able to turn to the ASA to report misleading or indecent material. Anything that could be construed as marketing, even if it is on its website, can be regulated by the ASA.
ASA Chairman, Lord Smith, says, “This significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart.”
The ASA recently made headlines when they banned Beyonce’s commercial for her perfume, Heat. The ASA said the provocative ad couldn’t be played when children were most likely to be watching television. This type of regulatory power would be extended to the internet, but says the ASA, they will not censure members of the public who post banned material online. For example, someone who posted Beyonce’s ad on YouTube would not be pursued by the ASA. What they can do, though, is order censured companies to withdraw online marketing. They will also “name and shame” companies who fail to comply with their new regulations.