Earlier in the week the UK’s advertising watchdog announced it would be extending its remit on the internet, which was previously limited to adverts in paid-for space and sales promotions online.
From March 2010, the ASA will also look at marketing communications on companies’ websites as well as social networking sites such as facebook.
As the watchdog will apply the same standards to digital marketing communications as it does to adverts appearing in other media, head of CTPA Chris Flower said a significant amount of relevant guidance already exists.
The CTPA has collaborated with the ASA and Clearcast (the body ensuring the compliance of television advertising) in the past to produce a publicly available document to explain to cosmetics companies what steps need to be taken to support certain claims.
In particular, Flower urged small companies who may have been concentrating on the internet as a marketing tool to take a look at the available guidance.
“I hope no one gets any rude shocks, there is certainly a lot of guidance out there available to those who have never had experience of non-digital media” he told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com.
For companies operating on both the internet and the more traditional advertising media, Flower said he hoped companies are already using the same message in all media.
“I would hope that the general principles of honesty, truthfulness, legality and decency would already be applied to advertising on digital media; consumers are not daft and will notice if a product is making very different claims on digital media from those made elsewhere and will question what is going on,” he said.
“Company reputation is too precious to be squandered by failing to meet consumer expectations in such a way,” Flower added.
Social media and user generated content
One of the areas of the new remit open to interpretation is what constitutes marketing communication, particularly regarding user generated content on social networking sites.
Here, Flower echoed the ASA’s primary proposals that user generated content becomes company generated if it is isolated and used by the company.
“Company’s obviously have no control over what people say on these kinds of sites; but, if a company chooses to use somebody else’s words and present them as a testimonial, they have taken ownership of those words,” he said.