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The ‘Wild West’ of Online Advertising?

The ‘Wild West’ of Online Advertising?


The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has revealed that nearly 100% of websites monitored, as part of its in-house study, stuck to the organisation’s compliance rules.

The ASA’s Online Advertising Survey 2012 found that 95% of advertising on 120 websites of small, medium and large businesses across a wide range of sectors, obeyed regulations set out by the governing body.

A spokesman from the ASA said the findings do challenge the view that website advertising is seen as the ‘wild west’.

“As with the results of the 2011 survey, the findings appear to refute the view that websites commonly and flagrantly include advertising that obviously ignores generally accepted standards on truthfulness, harm and offence,” the report said.

“However, there is still scope for improvement in the overall compliance rate, which we will continue to address in the coming year.”

Same Rules for all Media

The investigation was carried out to check that companies making claims about their products and services on their own websites were following the same strict rules that apply across all other media.

As reported by A4u last month, failing to make your advert or deal clear enough, or making un-substantiated claim about your offering, could land you in hot water with the ASA – as affiliate website and Harmony United Ltd soon found out.

Despite the findings of the survey suggesting that obvious breaches of the advertising code are rare, an ASA spokesman said: “While encouraging, our day-to-day experience of regulating website advertising suggests that problem ads are more commonplace than the survey suggests.

“For example, we have been dealing with a significant number of complaints about the health and beauty sector, particularly in relation to ads produced by complementary and alternative medicine practitioners. Our survey, on the other hand, was an unbiased sweep looking at websites of different sized companies across a range of sectors.”

Omission of Charges

The ASA compliance team found that companies’ own website advertising, ‘by and large’ stuck to the rules and 97.8% of web pages did not contain any obvious breach of the rules.

Problems detected included the misleading omission of mandatory charges/taxes and misleading claims for moisturisers.

Websites were chosen from a wide range of advertising sectors including entertainment, media and leisure, retail, travel, technology, education, charities, automotive, toiletries and cosmetics and fast moving consumer goods.

Five pages on each website were assessed and each webpage included at least one marketing communication.

Where problems were identified, the ASA contacted the website owners to obtain assurances that they would bring their advertising claims in line with the code.

The ASA, which is a UK self-regulatory body for maintaining standards in advertising, is now conducting further compliance work around non-inclusive pricing.

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Pippa Chambers

Pippa Chambers

Freelance News Journalist at PerformanceIN - working to source the latest and breaking news in performance marketing. 

From newspapers to national B2B magazines and technology reporting, I have covered a variety of genres. NCTJ/NCE qualified.

Please email me at and follow me @PippaC1

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