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The ASA is 50

25 September 2012

This week marks a regulatory milestone as we celebrate our 50th anniversary.

On 24 September 1962 we held our inaugural meeting. Our role then, as now, was to respond to concerns from the public and business, to administer the Advertising Code and ensure ads were legal, decent, honest and truthful. Five decades later, although the regulatory landscape, our remit, the rules and indeed society have changed significantly, the principles at the heart of the system remain the same.

The last fifty years have been eventful. Things began quietly; in 1962 we were responsible for regulating ads appearing in print media and received just 100 complaints in our first two years. Over the last 50 years we have evolved to become a cross-media regulator. Our remit has expanded as new technologies and advertising trends have emerged – we now apply the Codes to ads online, on TV, radio, mobile phones, e-mail and video-on-demand – and we now deal with over 30,000 complaints a year.

Times may have changed but many of the issues that we deal with have not. History shows us that concerns about the protection of children, depiction of women, religion and the advertising of alcohol have formed the backdrop to much of our work and policy decisions over the last half-century, they continue to do so.

Overwhelmingly however it’s our role in making sure that consumers are protected from misleading advertising which has remained the mainstay of our work. Thankfully the majority of UK advertising can be trusted, but we’re here to stop the ones that can’t.

A key part of remaining a relevant and effective watchdog is the ongoing commitment of the ad industry to self-regulation. It has shown time and again that it is prepared to set tough rules that protect consumers and promote trust in advertising. It also agrees, almost universally, to comply with ASA rulings and to enforce our decisions. Moreover, throughout our history it has ensured that the Ad Codes, and our remit, have kept pace with technological change.

We are proud to reflect on reaching our half-century. As our Chairman, Lord Smith commented in our latest Annual Report, the challenge for the ASA is to remain “attuned to changes in society’s expectations and attitudes” and “prove that we can be as effective for the next 50 years as we have been for the last. We’re up for the task”.

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