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Social network marketing facing regulation

9th Mar 2010
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The Advertising Standards Authority is to start policing social media and microsites in order to plug a regulatory gap that means it has no authority to act against two thirds of the online marketing complaints it receives.

The Advertising Association (AA), an industry body that represents the UK’s advertising and media industry, has just agreed proposals to tighten non-paid-for digital advertising practices and ensure that the ASA has the right to enforce the new rules in the same way that it currently does for TV, press, poster and radio adverts.

The ASA currently regulates all paid-for digital advertising such as online banner and display ads as well as paid search, but does not police advertising on a company’s own web site, a campaign microsite or profiles on social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

The AA has now submitted its plans to both the Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) and the ASA for ratification, with a public consultation due to be held in the interim. The new rules are expected to come into force in the third quarter of this year at the same time as the CAP publishes its freshly revised broadcast and non-broadcasting advertising codes.

Rae Burdon, the AA’s chief operating officer, said: "Contrary to general understanding, much advertising online is already in remit and there’s a very high level of compliance with the existing rules. There are some complex issues in the remaining space, which require careful analysis."

He added that the advertising industry had delivered CAP "a clear mandate" to "first and foremost" protect consumers and children, but also editorial content. "What’s important now is effective implementation and raising consumer and stakeholder awareness," Burdon said.

Advertising body the ISBA welcomed the changes. Ian Twinn, its director of public affairs, said: "We have been campaigning for this move for some time and so it is rewarding to see progress. It is the firm view of advertisers that if something looks and feels like an ad, then it should be regulated like an ad."

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