The ASA is the Advertising Standards Authority. It’s the United Kingdom’s independent regulator is advertising across all media. It’s purpose is to make sure all the advertisement’s are legal, decent, honest and truthful by applying the advertising codes (rules laid down for advertisers, agencies and media owners to follow).

The rules are. in fact, not written by the ASA. BCAP (Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice – responsible for writing and maintaining the UK Code of Broadcast advertising) and CAP ( Committee of Advertising Practice – responsible for the Non-broadcast advertising, sales promotions and direct marketing, eg. cinema, press, posters and online)  are responsible for writing them.

What types of ads to the ASA work with?

  • Magazines / Newspaper
  • Radio and TV commercials (not programmes / programme sponsorship)
  • TV Shopping Channels
  • Posters on legitimate poster sites (not fly posters)
  • Leaflets and Brochures
  • Cinema commercials
  • Direct mail (ads sent through the post to your address)
  • Door drops and circulars (leaflets)
  • Advertisements on the Internet, banners, display ads and paid-for(sponsered) search
  • Marketing Communications on companies own websites
  • Commercial e-mail and SMS text message ads
  • Ads on CD ROMs , DVD and Video (also faxes)
  • Sales Promotions / special offers / prize draws and competitions wherever they appear.

What do the Rules say?? The codes contain a wide range of rules, putting restrictions on companies making sure their advertisements aren’t misleading, offensive or harmful. Every advert must be socially responsible and be fair to the competition.  It also includes more specific rules for certain products and marketing techniques.  The ASA have made it almost impossible for advertisers to find loopholes or ‘get off on a technicality.’

An Example of Specific Advertising rules (BCAP):

Just a few rules for the advertisement of weight loss and slimming products:

  • Adverts must not encourage indiscriminate or excessive use of weight-control or slimming product/service.
  • The slimming product/ service must be likely to be effecting and won’t result in harm to an individual.
  • Promises/ Predictions of weight loss are not acceptable for any slimming product
  • Health Claims in food advertisements that refer to the rate/ amount of weight loss are not permitted.
  • Advertising for slimming/weight control products must not be aimed at people who are under 18. Creative treatments to appeal to them in particular are not allowed. Using any person whose example people under 18 are likely to follow or who has a particular appeal to them. (Excluding advertisements for calorie reduced or energy reduced food / drink – so long as it’s not part as a slimming regime and the advertisement doesn’t use the theme of slimming or weight control).
  • Low-calorie food and drinks, if advertised as or as part of a slimming regime must make it clear in the ad that the product can assist in weight loss if used alongside a calorie-controlled/ energy controlled diet.
  • It must be stressed that the diet should only be a short-term measure.
  • Specific case histories must not be used.

An Example of Specific Advertising rules (CAP):

A few rules for the advertisement of Alcohol:

  • Cannot claim/ imply that alcohol can enhance confidence / popularity
  • Drinking alcohol must not be portrayed as a challenge and must not encourage the irresponsible or anti-social behaviour and mustn’t link alcohol to brave/tough/daring people or behaviour.
  • Cannot link alcohol to illicit drugs
  • Cannot link alcohol to seduction, sexual activity or sexual success, nor imply that alcohol can enhance attractiveness.
  • Must not imply that alcohol is indispensable/take priority in like or that drinking alcohol can overcome boredom/loneliness or other problems.
  • Must not be aimed to an audience under the age of 18.

BARB –  BARB stands for the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board is the organisation that records audience measurement and television ratings in the United Kingdom. It replaced the BBC & ITC companies compiling their own ratings, called JICTAR.  It currently has approximately 5,100 participating viewers, who have a box on the top of their television that tracks the programmes they watch. The numbers complied by BARB are incredibly important to advertising because the amount the advertisement companies pay is dependant on the number of viewers, the more people who watch the channel, the higher the cost of airtime.


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