The ASA is extending its remit to cover all areas of online marketing communication. Importantly this now includes company’s communication on their own websites and any other area they control online:
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.
Main Websites controlled by clients are generally well maintained and obey the 10 basic principles of the ASA:
This extension of regulation does put pressure on brands to manage their smaller web properties in a more controlled and careful way going forward. Campaign microsites or secondary sub-sites now need to be actively managed and will need to be updated or mothballed if the campaign lapses or product information changes. If not then an ASA complaint could easily be filed against the client.
Affiliate Marketing campaigns will now need to be managed much more closely administered. Many affiliate campaigns have thousands of affiliates many of who have supplied little value to the clients over the campaign. These “lapsed” affiliates could now become a liability with out of date offers and creative being subject to ASA regulation as these are undoubtedly “under their control”. Equi=Media have been proactively managing down affiliate campaigns to a size where the value is delivered from affiliates who are actively managed and engaged updating copy and creative as required. It is likely that all clients and agencies will have to start implementing similar policies if they have not already done so and Affiliate Networks will have to update the way they operate with vast “Longtail” affiliate programmes in this revised regulatory framework.
Social Media is specifically addressed in the new remit and incorporates its broadest definition including “Advergames” and “User Generated Content”, not just branded YouTube channels and Facebook pages. The key thing here is if it obviously promotes the sale of any goods or services.
If user generated content:
The inclusion of “Advergames” could well mean that many branded free iPhone applications could be subject to ASA control
There are a number of exclusions specifically listed by the ASA in the remit extension:
The most interesting of these could be “Marketing Communications in Foreign Media” as more and more content is hosted elsewhere other than the UK. For instance YouTube content that may be hosted on servers in the US. Two new exclusions are also included relating to “Investor Relations” and “Heritage Advertising” excluding communication aimed at the financial and investor communities and allowing companies to maintain historic adverts which may no longer be correct on their sites as long as they are clearly labelled as such.
For clients that break these new regulations (or the existing remit of the ASA CAP Code) three new Sanctions have been introduced:
As an agency directly and through our membership of industry bodies we will be engaging in the consultancy period on these new regulations before they are implemented in March 2011. We will seek clarification and further explanation on a number of points to ensure we are in the best position to advise our clients on the implementation of these new regulations.