ASA Updates: Influencing on Advertising Regulations & Green Disposals

Over the course of the last few months, the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) have provided updates on their work in tackling inappropriate online advertising, provide advice on social media influencing and summarised their findings on ads relating to ‘green disposal claims’.

On the 5th March 2024, the ASA announced they are launching two innovative projects to address the issue of inappropriate online advertising, particularly those targeting vulnerable audiences like children. These projects aim to enhance transparency and hold accountable all parties involved in the online advertising chain.

One project utilises technology to monitor for ads promoting age-restricted products (including alcohol, gambling, and HFSS foods) on websites popular with children under 18. Strict regulations prohibit these ads from reaching children and young people through media selection or contextual placement.

The other project uses a similar approach to track highly offensive and potentially harmful ads appearing in mobile quiz and game apps. This marks the first instance of tech-assisted monitoring in this specific media.

By analysing the findings, the ASA will conduct in-depth case studies to identify all entities involved in the “supplier pathway” of these non-compliant ads. This includes advertisers, publishers, and intermediary companies. The ASA will then seek their input to understand how these ads ended up being displayed and publish its findings to promote transparency and accountability.

This initiative builds upon the ASA’s previous efforts in online regulation, such as the “Tech4Good” projects. These projects included using technology to monitor children’s online safety, HFSS ads near children’s content, and online advertising targeting children through the “100 Children Report.”

ASA partners with Instagram and content creators
The ASA has collaborated with Instagram and five popular content creators to produce an educational video series on UK advertising regulations. Each video spotlights a key theme like proper disclosures, avoiding deception and transparent pricing.

“It’s crucial that all advertisers, including those online, follow the rules that keep people safe and prevent them from being misled” said Donna Castle, ASA Director of Communications & Marketing.

While the ASA has supervised social media marketing for over a decade, these videos engage creators and brands which are unfamiliar with guidelines or the ASA itself. The proactive approach supports the authority’s five-year strategy for AI-assisted, collective ad regulation.

Key findings on green disposal claims
The ASA recently examined research and ads regarding green disposal claims on recyclability, biodegradability, etc. To provide further guidance on responsible advertising practices, CAP and BCAP have included a new section (3.1) on green disposal claims in their existing document “The environment: misleading claims and social responsibility in advertising”.

There were some specific trends which the ASA noticed and summarised that whilst people understand “recycling,” they’re confused about terms like “compostable” and “biodegradable.”

The discovery that certain products release harmful toxins upon degradation has led to concerns about misleading green disposal claims. To address this, updated guidance aims to assist advertisers in crafting truthful claims and outlines key factors they should consider to ensure their advertising complies with the Advertising Codes.

There were demands for transparency around how long it takes branded “biodegradable” items to break down. Participants also wanted clearer data on safe disposal methods and locations. The ASA stated that their research showed consumers broadly treat green ad claims uncritically, risking oversimplified assumptions.

The issues-led ad review monitored hundreds of ads via AI and manual inspection. Stay tuned for key recommendations on strengthening accountability around green disposal claims.

If you would like to find out more information on how to improve your advertising campaigns in line with the required compliance or have any questions concerning the topics discussed, please contact our commercial team.

Olivia Larkin
Solicitor, Commercial
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This reflects the law and market position at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought in relation to a specific matter.

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