Watchdog gets new teeth – social networks now in its sights
The leash on the UK’s advertising watchdog is being loosened and it will finally get its teeth into social networks, with an expanded remit covering Facebook, Twitter and advertisers’ own websites. It’s a move which is long-overdue, though it won’t take effect for another six months.
Currently, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has power over paid-for advertising and sales promotions on- and offline; but the extended remit will give it authority over unpaid-for space on company websites and in social networks, such as company pages on Facebook.
The move is likely to be popular with consumers – The Register points out that the ASA had to reject 3,500 complaints about websites in 2008-09 because they fell outside its remit. And, with online marketing growing so rapidly, the ASA looks set for busy times.
It will be able to demand the removal of paid-for links to pages hosting a banned ad, and will be able to post its own online ads highlighting an advertiser’s failure to comply with a ruling.
So who will pay for all this extra work? The voluntary 0.1% levy, which currently funds the ASA, will be extended to include all search-engine advertising, and in the meantime, Google is handing over £200,000 to get things started.
The ASA is now gearing up for its new role with a six-month preparation period. We’ll be interested to see who’s first to feel the watchdog’s bite when the new rules take effect next March.