Q&A: The new Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) online rules. What do they mean for you organisation’s website?

Posted on by Neil Hayes

By Jove! What’s this all about?

On March 1st 2011 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) was issued with new powers to rule over organisation’s websites, digital promotional and marketing activity.

What the…?! What does it cover?

Until now the ASA’s on-line jurisdiction has been over paid-for advertising and web-based sales promotion. From now on any charity website page that includes a donation request has to match up to these new codes. The extended remit also covers organisation’s online promotional videos, micro-sites and pages controlled by the charity on social networking sites (such as Twitter and Facebook).

All relevant content must now fall in line with the non-broadcast advertising rules set out in the Committee of Advertising Practice Code (CAP Code). In short, this means that the advertising must be must be legal, decent and honest and not intended to mislead or offend. Further, organisations must hold supporting evidence to substantiate any claims they make in the relevant content.

Oooh Kay… What if one were to bend or break the rules?

Well. If you cross the line and a complaint is upheld by the ASA then they have the power to do the following:

Although, critics suggest that while the ASA have increased their complaints and investigation staff by 10%, it will find it difficult to enforce the rules and even harder to impose sanctions.

Crikey! So what does it mean for me and my organisation?

Unless you are used to telling porky pies or have a line in offensive jokes, you shouldn’t need to worry! However, do look at your pages that ask for cold hard cash and make sure everything is up to scratch and in-line with the rules.

Thankfully the kindly folk at the ASA said: “We would encourage anyone who is unsure to get in touch with us. We’re not trying to catch people out”.

Their spokesman also said the ASA is offering a free advice service for charities. Organisations can send materials to advice@cap.org.uk to check whether they could be caught out by the code.

Good luck!

Links to Further Reading:

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