On the 1st March 2011 the Advertising Standards Authority will begin monitoring online advertising and marketing communications, what could it mean for your website?

Considering the majority of websites, like the majority of more traditional advertising, contain decent, honest and truthful messages then most web owners will be unconcerned. It’s worth pointing out however that now your visitors have a body to complain to if they don’t like what they see. Under the change, the CAP Code (the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing) will apply in full to marketing messages online, including the rules relating to misleading advertising, social responsibility and the protection of children.

In the last year approximately 2,500 complaints about web activity were received by the ASA, complaints they could do nothing about. Now they have the power to regulate commercial websites and businesses using the internet to promote themselves. This includes social networking platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and even your blog.

The ASA already control and enforce the advertising codes of conduct within traditional advertising and marketing such as TV advertising, magazines and printed publications. Their role is to ensure that advertising is honest and trust-worthy.

Until now the only thing regulating online advertising was, well, nothing – if you wanted to claim your product was “the best on the web” you could. Unsurprisingly, now the internet has grown there has been a clamour for a higher standard. The change is being heralded as good news for the web owner and consumer alike, and I agree with this – most webmasters have nothing to worry about and will benefit from an increased level of trust in internet marketing messages.

Matt Wilson of the ASA recently told the BBC “the principle that ads have to be legal, decent, honest and truthful is now going to extend to companies’ claims on their own websites”

According to the ASA official website, the new remit will ensure the same high standards as in other media and will cover:

  • Advertisers’ own marketing messages on their own websites
  • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under the advertiser’s control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter

As stated at the beginning of this article, the vast majority of websites have nothing to worry about, but now may be the time to have a look at the claims you are making on your website and ask yourself whether you are completely happy with them.

It’s also worth making time to check out the Advertising Standards Authority website.