Should companies that use Facebook and Twitter to advertise have their adverts screened as they already do with traditional media? The advertising that is done offline is monitored by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), but online social media adverts are not. From March/April 2011 both online and offline campaigns will be monitored by the ASA – what impact will that have on a business message or website.
The ASA rules cover all statements on a website that can be interpreted as marketing even if they are not positioned or linked in an advert. Prior to this point, the ASA where only able to check out the content and the intent of paid for ads that were placed online.
Since 2008 the advertising watchdog received in excess of 4,500 reports and queries about appropriate text on websites, but unfortunately they could do nothing about it. The watchdog did notice that the reports and complaints from the online adverts were very similar to the public reports from viewing advertising in TV, National Press and on the Radio. The ASA spokesman stated that this new power will allow them to change and turnover a lot of issues that are put in front of them. The overall rule is that the UK advertising code states that all none paid for statements must not harm, mislead or offend, just like paid for adverts were in the beginning.
The ASA will primarily search for harmful, misleading or offensive details on the .co.uk domains. However, many .com domains will also be reviewed such as Facebook. The difficultly is that an advert on the internet can be visible for 1 week or 1 minute, cause widespread harm or be misleading (particularly on a sales add), then withdrawn.
User content that is posted such as Facebook is not going to be investigated but the ASA will examine company adverts. If a company ad on a social networking site is in breach of the advertising code, the ASA will incorporate a name and shame process.
However, all intentions so far seem to be in the best possible nature. The ads have to be clean and appropriate and clear when delivering their message. However, with Facebook and MySpace growing and companies utilising the massive audience, the enforcement of the code might be difficult. If you are deemed as non compliant the results could be very damaging. There are talks about excluding companies from any advertising medium including search engines and PPC campaigns.
So, ask yourself this, are your marketing messages ASA compliant?
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