Digital advertising came of age today; it got regulated. The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) the body charged with ensuring that UK advertising is accurate, honest and doesn’t mislead announced that from early next year search (Google Adwords basically), social media business pages and advertisers own websites will fall under their remit. Digital advertising such as banner/sky scraper style web ads have been subject to the ASA code of practice for a while now but this is a further step along the digital marketing road. If anyone, anywhere, was in any doubt that building a client a Facebook page was ‘real’ marketing then this is surely the final affirmation.

ASA has power, it can effectively ban an advertiser from advertising again if it doesn’t follow its guidelines or ignores its judgements. As the main traditional media is involved with the ASA it can enforce this too. How that will work on social media and search will be interesting. I can only assume that Facebook, Google, Twitter et al have signed up and have agreed to remove anyone who doesn’t comply. This doesn’t quite fit with their slightly anarchic, start-up, anti-censorship image but I suppose these companies are becoming mainstream now, it’s a bit like when Mick Jagger accepted a knighthood, it seemed impossible at one time as he struck fear into fathers the length of the country, now he’s seen as a pillar of society.

From next year all search and Facebook advertising will be subject to a 0.1% ASBOF levy too, this will fund the new department in much the same way it funds the ASA currently.
What’s more curious is how the ASA will enforce any advertiser websites it adjudicates against. I suppose if they are advertising elsewhere they can prohibit them but if they aren’t I’m not sure what action they can take. It seems unlikely they’ll have the power to remove a web site.
As it stands it looks to me like the standards our industry works to in ‘traditional’ media have been pretty much followed online too, without the need for regulation. But for me that isn’t really what this is about, it’s about the realisation that these ‘media’ are here to stay.