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ASA to police commercial websites

Commercial copywriters to be scrutinised

Online commercial copywriters will soon be subject to greater oversight from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Formed in 1962, ASA begin life primarily as a regulatory body for print, seeking to ensure that newspaper and magazine ads did not mislead the public. Its remit was extended in 2004 to include commercials on other platforms such as TV and radio. In the digital sector, it now polices emails, text messages, banners, pop-ups and sponsored search listings but not commercial websites, reports Campaign.

Home Office report makes recommendations

However, a new report commissioned by the Home Office has called for a further extension of ASA’s remit. Celebrity psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulos was asked to investigate how sexualised images may be affecting young people and she noted that a growing number of ads were delivered by commercial websites. She concluded: “I recommend that the government recognises the work being work carried out by the Advertising Standards Authority and supports it in taking steps to close this regulatory loophole, by extending the existing standards to include commercial websites.”

Responding to the study, an ASA spokesman said that changes were “imminent”. He explained: “The industry is in very advanced stages at tackling concerns surrounding the online regulatory gap by extending the ASA’s remit online.”

Last year, ASA considered the issue of whether online marketing in the health and beauty sector was misleading the public. The Health and Beauty Products and Therapies Advertisements Survey 2009 found that 9.2 per cent of internet ads failed to comply with the Committee Advertising Practice code.

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