Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the ASA has been receiving complaints about ads that depict scenes or behaviours, (for instance: crowds of people in close proximity to each other or people in shops not wearing face masks), which go against current government and scientific rules and guidelines that are aimed at limiting the spread of Covid-19 through the population.
Our approach has largely been pragmatic, and based on our statement of Regulatory Forbearance that we put out at the start of lockdown. But in light of the recent enquiries we’ve received, the ASA Council has agreed three guiding principles that they will use when assessing these issues until further notice:
a) Ads which actively discourage protective measures such as mask wearing or social distancing are likely to be irresponsible in all circumstances and therefore a breach of the Code. The ASA will be likely to investigate such ads with a view to banning them.
b) Ads which are responsibly created and which make explicit reference to the existence of the pandemic must, where relevant, show depictions of social distancing, the correct use of face masks and other protective Covid-19 measures in line with current Government advice at the time the ads were created.
c) Ads which are responsibly created but which do not explicitly reference the existence of the pandemic would not be likely to need to depict coronavirus protective measures such as social distancing and the use of face masks.
The ASA Council notes that whilst these guiding principles are the starting point for their assessment, as always, it will have regard to the specific content and context of each ad when reaching a decision on whether an ad is compliant with the Advertising Code(s).
To read more about the context and the implementation of these principles, see our formal statement in our resource library.