Advertising standards code takes in social media
More things to complain about: the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) has broadened its remit to include “marketing communications in non-paid-for space online, under the control of the advertiser or their agent, including but not limited to advertisers’ own websites”.
Prior to this, consumers and industry competitors could complain about marketing material appearing on a company’s website in the same way they could complain about an advertisement or a claim in a traditional advertising format.
Now that remit has been broadened to include other digital spaces and comes into effect from January 2nd, but with a grace period. For three months the authority will investigate and resolve complaints informally: complaints will not result in a formal decision from the independent complaints committee.
According to ASAI assistant chief executive Orla Twomey, the clunky language is deliberate, an attempt to future-proof the guidelines and so “non-paid-for space online” covers a raft of existing social and digital media, including Twitter and Tumblr, email and Facebook.
New “non-paid-for spaces” appear all the time, so naming social media sites in the code could prove restrictive in the future.
Steve Jobs famously considered every mention of the Apple brand to be a form of advertising – no matter who said it – but, for the purposes of the ASAI code, the communication must be “brand-originated . . . to be considered a marketing communication”.
Twomey gives the example of consumer feedback about a product or a service which is then posted by the company on its site or emailed to other consumers or retweeted. That is fine if the feedback contains claims that can be stood up by the company but, if they cannot, it could be deemed false advertising.
Such non-paid-for digital spaces are famously fast-moving, so it will be a challenge for the authority to make an impact on false or indecent advertising on such media.
While the ASAI can’t really do anything in terms of fines or other bottom-line sanctions, Twomey maintains the authority’s “name and shame” policy for advertisers who break any aspect of the code is a powerful deterrent to others.