You’re no doubt aware of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the independent regulator who ensure that ads are legal, honest and truthful. Their remit has just been widened to all forms of online marketing including websites, banners, social media and SEO. What does this mean for you? For the majority, it may not mean you have to change anything, but there are some points you should certainly be aware of before undertaking any digital marketing.

The essence of the ASA’s remit is to ensure that advertising is marked as such and the messages being communicated are transparent, truthful and straightforward. In the past, some web advertisers have got away with “Cures all known illnesses in less than 24 hours” and other such nonsense, but the ASA will be looking to clamp down on this kind of thing. Other specific examples include:

  • Promotions must contain all salient details such as where it's available, how long for, eligibility and so on. This is of course difficult on Twitter with only 140 characters
  • Companies should be careful retweeting or quoting customers. If a company retweets something from a customer like “Bought a great skirt at X Brand, only £10!” and that product is no longer available at that price, they will fall foul of the ASA. This also applies to retweeting a customer saying something that the brand cannot substantiate, such as “X Brand definitely gets my clothes cleaner than Y brand”. Social has always been a comparatively relaxed medium but the ASA now have the powers to scrutinise this channel
  • You cannot censor negative reviews. If you have reviews on your site, you must show the negative as well as the positive

It remains to be seen how the ASA are going to monitor these channels; how do you know if someone is censoring reviews for example?

Our advice would be that it comes down to common sense. Whatever the channel, whenever it was said or whoever said it, if your company cannot substantiate what you're saying best not to say it in the first place, unless you don’t mind potentially wasting your marketing budget.