We use cookies to ensure that we provide you with the best experience on our site. To learn more about how they are used please view our Cookie Policy.
If you continue to browse our website we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies. However, click here if you would like to change your cookie settings. [X]

Insights

CONVERSATION STOPPER - THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE ASA REGULATING THE DIGITAL ENVIRONMENT

24 February, 2011 - Source: McCann Manchester

On March 1 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will regulate online content, including marketing activities in social media, by extending the CAP code to all online content in the control of a brand or organisation. Robin Wilson, Director of PR and Social Media at McCann Manchester, wonders if brands will now find it harder to have conversations with their customers.

  • Robin Wilson
    Robin Wilson

On March 1 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) will regulate online content, including marketing activities in social media, by extending the CAP code to all online content in the control of a brand or organisation. Robin Wilson, Director of PR and Social Media at McCann Manchester, wonders if brands will now find it harder to have conversations with their customers.

The extension of the ASA’s CAP code to all online content controlled by companies, including social media, [http://www.asa.org.uk/Media-Centre/2010/ASA-digital-remit-extension.aspx] was first announced in March last year and it’s been the subject of heated debate ever since.

It seems the main challenge facing the ASA will be policing the application of the CAP code to online content, particularly content in social media where there is a grey area on who owns the content.

According to the ASA, user generated content (UGC) is not included in the ASA's remit extension. However, if a company incorporates UGC in its own marketing, it will be covered. This will be considered on a case-by-case basis, warns the ASA, taking account of the context in which it is placed. So, what about shared media?

Shared media is content that isn’t quite owned by a brand or by a user. For example, comments by a user on a brand’s Facebook Page, blog or YouTube channel, is usually referred to as shared media.
If a user makes a comment on brand-owned social media that doesn’t comply with the CAP code, then what happens? Does the brand have to take it down? But if so, does the brand have a right to delete a comment that technically doesn’t belong to them?

There will, no doubt, be continued calls for more clarity on this from the ASA as it faces the huge task of trawling through thousands of shared media comments to decide whether they constitute ‘marketing’ or not, and whether they are responsible, depending on context.

In reality, the threat of falling foul of the ASA guidelines is likely to discourage many brands from starting and continuing conversations online with their customers in shared media area.

The ASA says its primary concern is not to punish advertisers and, of course, any guidelines which help provide people with a great experience of brands online are a positive move.

But for the many reputable brands who are already acting responsibly in the social media space and who value the two-way dialogue they have with their customers, honestly, transparently, and with full disclosure and no attempts at deception – this is a real shame. This is a real shame for their customers too.

It’s difficult to have a natural conversation if you have to watch your words or you feel you have to prove the context of what you’re saying constantly.

It will be interesting to see how the brands who are talking to their customers this way and who have seen great success with social media adapt to the new guidelines and to see how or if they change the way they talk with their customers.

Let’s hope that behaving reputably online, by being transparent, honest and listening to what people are saying i.e. being human is a strong enough defence to set some precedents in this area.

Your session will expire in xx.xx
Continue or Log Out