The ASA has long-since regulated paid-for online ads and from 2011, its online remit was extended to include a company's own advertising on its own websites and social media. However, enforcing those regulations has not always been easy. The purpose behind the ASA's Intermediary and Platform Principles (IPP) pilot is to increase awareness of and compliance with advertising regulations amongst those involved in the digital advertising supply chain.
On 5 October 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) released its final report regarding the IPP pilot - a collaboration between the ASA and ten major players in the digital advertising supply chain, including Google, Meta, and TikTok. The pilot's primary goal was to raise awareness of, and ensure compliance with, online advertising standards. The report's findings reveal that the participating companies actively supported the ASA in increasing awareness of online advertising regulations and promptly removing persistently non-compliant advertisements.
Digital platforms strengthen ASA's remit
The ASA believes that the IPP pilot has strengthened the existing self-regulatory framework, wherein key companies within the online advertising supply chain assist the ASA in upholding responsible advertising practices. The pilot program asked participating platforms to adhere to a set of principles, which included:
- ensuring the prominent display of the CAP Code to advertisers or their agencies;
- incorporating CAP Code compliance requirements within their policies and contract terms;
- assisting in promoting awareness of the ASA's regulatory system;
- taking appropriate measures to inform advertisers about available tools and controls to prevent the targeting of age-restricted ads towards children or young individuals;
- swiftly removing non-compliant ads upon request when advertisers fail to do so; and
- providing necessary information to aid the ASA in its investigations.
The final report will be evaluated by the ASA, industry stakeholders, and other concerned parties with the aim being to identify any gaps in the ASA's ability to ensure advertiser compliance with the CAP Code in the online realm and determine how these gaps can be addressed through collaboration with platforms and intermediaries.
It is notable that the majority of participating companies demonstrated substantial or full adherence to the established principles and the report demonstrated examples of best practices, such as offering advertisers clear links to the CAP Code and specific rules, providing guidance and training on targeting, and establishing dedicated reporting channels to facilitate the removal of non-compliant advertisements.
The IPP pilot initiative aligns with the government's Online Advertising Programme (OAP) consultation on regulating paid-for online advertising. The government's response to the OAP highlighted the necessity for certain statutory interventions. New legislation will mandate platforms, intermediaries, and publishers to implement systems and processes aimed at preventing online ads promoting illegal activities and products, as well as those targeting individuals under the age of 18 with products they cannot legally purchase. Importantly, the new legislation will not affect the ASA's role in overseeing the content and placement of legitimate paid-for advertising in the online sphere.
Only an ever closer alignment between the ASA and the various platforms, intermediaries and publishers will strengthen the argument that the self-regulatory system is capable of maintaining online advertising standards
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