One of our most persuasive sanctions is bad publicity – an advertiser’s reputation can be badly damaged if it is seen to be ignoring the rules designed to protect consumers.
Ultimately if advertisers and broadcasters persistently break the Advertising Codes and don’t work with us, we can and do refer them to other bodies for the further action, such as Trading Standards or Ofcom. Such referrals are rarely necessary, as most advertisers prefer to resolve the matter directly with us. See our Trading Standards enforcement leaflet for examples of the sanctions available to them, as our legal backstop for non-broadcast advertising.
Additionally, any advertisements that break the Code are disqualified from industry awards, denying advertisers and the agencies that created the ads the opportunity to showcase their work.
Broadcast sanctionsUK broadcasters (licenced by Ofcom) are required to follow ASA rulings and the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising as part of their licence conditions.
For broadcast advertisements, the responsibility to withdraw, change or reschedule a commercial lies with the broadcasters.
Broadcasters are required by a condition of their broadcast licences to enforce ASA rulings. If they persistently run ads that fall foul of the Broadcast Advertising Code, broadcasters risk being referred by the ASA to Ofcom, which can impose fines and even withdraw their licence to broadcast.
Although responsibility for sticking to the Code rests with the broadcaster, advertisers also suffer consequences if their broadcast ads break the rules.
They might, for example, face bad publicity generated by an upheld complaint. Advertisers might also have wasted hundreds of thousands of pounds making an advertisement in the first place and lost the revenue that it might have generated if it is banned. And because broadcasters cannot show ads that break the rules, advertisers might lose prime advertising slots in which a banned ad has been booked to appear.
Non-broadcastWe can require the amendment or withdrawal of an ad that breaks the rules in the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing (CAP Code). The majority of sanctions for non-broadcast advertising are co-ordinated through CAP, whose members are trade associations representing advertisers, agencies and media. There are several sanctions, which can be employed in different circumstances:
Ad AlertsCAP can issue alerts to its members, including the media, advising them to withhold services such as access to advertising space.
Withdrawal of trading privilegesCAP members can revoke, withdraw or temporarily withhold recognition and trading privileges. For example, the Royal Mail can withdraw its bulk mail discount, which can make running direct marketing campaigns prohibitively expensive.
Pre-vettingPersistent or serious offenders can be required to have their marketing material vetted before publication. For example, CAP’s poster industry members can invoke mandatory pre-vetting for advertisers who have broken the CAP Code on grounds of taste and decency or social responsibility – the pre-vetting can last for two years.
In addition to the non-broadcast options listed above, CAP has further sanctions that can be invoked to help ensure marketers’ claims on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space under their control, follow the Code.
We can ask internet search websites to remove a marketer’s paid-for search advertisements when those advertisements link to a page on the marketer’s website that contains material which breaks the rules.
Marketers may face adverse publicity if they cannot or will not amend problem marketing communications on their own websites or in other non-paid-for space online under their control.
Their name and details of the problem with their advertising may be featured on a dedicated section of the ASA website, designed to appear in search engine results when a consumer searches for a company’s website.
If necessary, we can also place an ASA advertisement appearing in search engine results.
Visit the non-compliant online advertisers page.
Video-on-demandWe can refer VoD media providers to Ofcom if they break certain aspects of the Code and if they refuse to work with us.
The ASA’s designation by Ofcom of regulating Video-on-demand advertising means that failure to stick to the rules in the VOD Appendix may result in the matter being referred to Ofcom with a view to Ofcom considering whether the media service provider has contravened the relevant requirements of the Act.