Friday, 11 February 2011

The CAP Code - are you ready for March 1st?

You've probably heard through the extensive ad campaign that the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) is getting ready to implement new rulings concerned with marketing on web sites from March 1st. The CAP Code (The UK Code of Non-Broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, issued by The Committee of Advertising Practice) is in its 12th edition from September 1st 2010, but awareness about its effect has been raised by an extensive campaign from the ASA - all done with donated ad space, apparently. You can get access to the CAP Code at the Committee of Advertising Practice

Essentially the new ruling extends the power of the ASA's digital remit. It allows the ASA to name and shame non-compliers, place warnings alongside the search result listings of non-compliers, force the removal of paid links/adverts to the non-compliers, refer non-compliers to the OFT (Office of Fair Trading) and/or the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulators.

There's quite a debate as to whether the notorious difficulty of policing the internet will dilute or even negate these powers, but companies should make sure that they understand the implications and take the necessary steps to devise and implement a strategy for them. This might include: regular checks on your web presence (this includes social media sites too), training any employees who contribute content to digital media, update any agreements used - particularly with advertisers/agents - to reflect the changes in codes of practice.

The paid link veto is supported by Google which had its own guidelines on companies using these links to improve their search ranking but which they found difficult to enforce. In fact they have part funded the CAP Code initiative. See Changes to the CAP Code - Google finds an ally in the war on paid links by Alex Postance 28th January, at Epiphany.

The ASA work from the premise of people producing marketing that is legal, decent, honest and truthful by applying The Advertising Codes, but this applies to communication that is wider than adverts, such as competitions and use of user-generated content if pulled into and used in a company's marketing for its own benefit. See the Digital Retail Advice page of the ASA.

It's just as well to understand new moves like these to make sure you are informed and take a company stance that suits you and the legal implications. You wouldn't want to fall foul and plead ignorance as it wouldn't help, now would you?