Photo by Versalogic
Okay, first and foremost, apologies to my readers based outside of the US as this is a post about recent updates from the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK which has recently extended the digital remit of the CAP Code.
For everyone else, apologies that the headline and the opening paragraph really had to be that dull.
Now let’s make this as painless as possible!
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard the adverts on the radio that tell you if you’re a business with a website in the UK then you need to be aware of things happening on March the 1st with the ASA. At which point you probably told yourself to look it up later and if you’re like me, and have a shower radio, you’d forgotten to do so by the time you were singing Papa Don’t Preach into the shampoo bottle.
If you did happen to remember and went by the website you p[robably then got put off by all the stuff you would have to read through and then make sense of to see if any of it applied to you and your website, and if so what it all meant.
Well don’t fear. Whilst I would recommend you plough through the details if you’re really interested (I did and I shouldn’t be the only one who spent a sunny afternoon doing so) but if you’re just of causal interest, let me break it down for you.
What is it in a nutshell?
Basically, the rules covering non-broadcast marketing no longer just applies to paid adverts on websites. It also includes promotions on social media sites like Twitter, or your own company’s marketing message on your own website. That means if someone makes a complaint to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) about your online marketing messages, they can now investigate it.
Who sets the rules? Where do they come from?
The rules were set out by the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in what was handily titled the CAP Code. It is not to be confused with the Green Cross code, The Countryside Code or The Da Vinci Code.
I have made a cup of tea and a biscuit has appeared in my hand. Where can I find a copy of the CAP Code to read in the next 15 minutes?
Fill your boots by clicking on this (downloadable pdf)
Why have things changed?
Well between 2008 – 2009 the ASA had to reject 3,500 complaints about the web content of organisations because they were outside the scope of the CAP Code. As there is a growing social and political concern to ensure people, particularly children and vulnerable adults, are protected from marketing messages that might be unscrupulous, it was decided to extend the ASA’s reach.So the CAP Code makes sure we’re all advertising in an ethical and lovely manner.
Does this apply to all content on my site?
No, the rules only applies to material which can be
“properly accepted as constituting an advertisement or other marketing communication.”
This means any kind of communication that is
“directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, etc.”
What’s the deal with marketing through Twitter updates?
If you are doing promotions or marketing messages through Twitter, Facebook or any social media platform, they are now subject to the rules as outlined in the CAP Code.
What about my attempts to convert people to Neil Diamond fans through my company FaceBook updates?
Unless you are asking people to give you money, promoting causes or ideas are not restricted by the CAP Code, so please feel free to spread the love for Mr. Cracklin’ Rosie.
What about the things my readers / fans / followers write about my product or service?
This is known as “User Generated Content” and basically, if you specifically ask people to write things about your business, and then use them in your marketing message, they are subject to the rules. If they just provide you with nice things about your business (such as a testimonial) that you specifically use to market a product or service, these are also subject to the rules. A fan that starts a Twitter campaign about how your company is awesome and your hair smells nice but doesn’t ask anyone to buy anything can pretty much say what they like.
Is anything excluded from the rules?
Why yes there area few things that don’t count and these include:
- Classified private ads
- Press releases and other public relations material
- Editorial content
- Political advertisements
- Corporate reports
- Natural listings on a search engine or a price comparison site
- Marketing communications in a foreign media
- Claims in marketing communications in media addresses only to medical, dental, veterinary or allied practitioners, that relate to those practitioners’ expertise
- From the preface to the CAP Code: “The Code is primarily concerned with the content of marketing communications and not with…products themselves
Anything else I should know?
Yes. Since the changes only came into effect on March 1st, there will be a lengthy review of how each case and complaint is handled. Nothing is clear cut at the moment, and any marketing messages that come under review will be carefully assessed based on its “specific content and context.”
Also, Advergames” which are video games that promote a product or organisation will be subject to the rules.
Is that everything? Can I go now?
Yes, you may go now, have a lovely day and normal content will resume tomorrow…