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Changes to the Advertising Standards Authority’s (ASA) remit means that advertising and marketing guidelines which perviously governed offline communications could change the way brands and organisations act and communicate online.

GavelThe Committee for Advertising Practice (CAP) lays down rules for many different brands and organisations to follow and they’re often referred to as the CAP Code Rules or CAP Codes.

The CAP Code Rules are a set of guidelines created to ensure that marketing communications activity isn’t misleading or offensive in any way and this has been the case for some time. The idea is that following these rules will make companies more reputable and communications to the public both valuable and honest.

However, this month the rules have been extended into the online space, meaning that the ASA is now able to police online materials for breach of any of the CAP Code rules. This means that all kinds of web content, from social media updates and to formal web copy, will be under scrutiny.

Many of the guidelines are focused on eradicating offensive and harmful content and we’re sure this is something that many companies won’t need to be worried about, as they wouldn’t allow that kind of communication regardless of platform. However, one area they do need to watch out for is anything that could be seen as misleading, which includes exaggerated claims when talking about products or promotions.

According to the BBC, in the last year the ASA has received more than 4,500 complaints about the copy used on websites and social networks. Until now nothing could be done about these complaints but they’ll certainly be taken further now the rules have been extended, either naming and shaming the companies that are at fault or even issuing penalties.

Even though we can’t help but think that it will be impossible for the ASA to police all online content, this is still a very serious matter and one that all brands and organisations need to be wary of.

We recommend that you have a good read of the CAP codes and see how they will apply to your organisation in the online space, visit The Committee of Advertising Practice – Codes.

Image via SteakPinball’s Flickr.

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