The Advertising Standards Authority has announced that it will soon be regulating online marketing, in response to thousands of complaints which until now fell outside its jurisdiction. The ASA website clarifies:
"From next year, the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (the CAP Code) will apply in full to marketing communications online, including the rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children."
The ASA already regulates paid-for advertising space, but the new CAP code sanctions will also cover marketing communications on the advertiser's own website. In addition, they will regulate any advertising in non-paid-for space, such as on social media sites. Of course, this only applies to sites the ASA can control, so the move will only have repercussions for UK digital marketing.
Websites breaching this policy could be subject to the removal of their paid-for advertisements, removal of pages linking to prohibited marketing, or even being emblazoned with an ASA advertisement highlighting their non-compliance. Meanwhile, content classed as "journalistic" or "relating to causes or ideas" will be above the law.
The operation will be funded by a 0.1% levy on paid-for search engine advertising, with additional capital from Google. With implementation forecasted for March 1st 2011, CAP Services have six months "to conduct training work to raise awareness and educate business on the requirements of the CAP Code, particularly amongst those who may not previously have been subject to ASA regulation".