We don’t just wait to receive complaints – we proactively monitor ads across different sectors and media to make sure standards are being maintained.
When ads are found that clearly break the rules we seek assurances from advertisers - and the clearance centres in the case of broadcast advertising - that those ads are withdrawn or amended. The Compliance team provide advice and guidance to help advertisers stick to the rules.
If an ASA ruling (a judgment, following investigation, on whether an ad breaks the advertising rules) has consequences for a whole sector, our team ensures businesses are all playing by the same rules by contacting all advertisers in that sector to advise them of the changes they need to make to their advertising claims. Similarly, if there is an established position on an advertising claim then we’ll contact advertisers whose claims aren’t in line with that and get them to change their ad(s).
Unlike cases which require further investigation by the ASA, where additional commentary or input from a complainant or advertiser can be necessary to fully understand the issues, sector compliance projects relate to issues which have been established in an ASA ruling as clear problems under the advertising rules. In these circumstances, the Compliance team will work independently of the ASA directly with advertisers in the market to bring about widespread compliance.
Work in this area is often supported by trade associations who represent the interests of advertisers in a sector or market. We also work with media owners and the clearance centres to ensure that our actions are put into effect fairly and comprehensively.
We also conduct surveys to assess compliance in specific sectors or media, and work with other regulators across Europe through the European Advertising Standards Alliance partnership. This research usually affects sensitive areas (such as those sectors that raise public policy concerns) or those that have a history of problems. This work allows us to anticipate trends and identify potential problems.
When the ASA publishes an upheld ruling, it asks the advertiser for a written assurance that the claim or image which broke the advertising rules will be removed or amended. If the ASA does not receive an assurance, the Compliance team will take further action until a satisfactory resolution has been reached.
As with sector compliance, the compliance team already has all the information it needs in cases like this and will work directly with advertisers, independently of the ASA, to bring about compliance.
On the rare occasions when an advertiser is unwilling or unable to follow the rules, the team will consider applying sanctions.
Repeat offendersIf advertisers continue to place ads that break the rules or refuse to work within the self-regulatory system, we can take action against them. The action we take depends on the number, nature and severity of the offences
We look at the advertiser’s record, including how many formal or informal investigations the ASA has carried out against them; how many other times they have broken the rules and whether they have been using our Copy Advice service and following the advice given.
On top of seeking assurances from an advertiser that it will improve its compliance record we sometimes request a meeting to discuss possible remedies to specific problems and to offer advice and guidance. In extreme circumstances, we will ask for an advertiser to seek advice from the Copy Advice team for a set period before it publishes its ads.