Blog: Chris MercerPolicing drinks adverts on Facebook? Good luck!

Chris Mercer | 1 September 2010

I don't envy the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) one bit, and not only because of its line of work. Its new rules on digital advertising could have the watchdog chasing its tail.

Policing the internet has become akin to chasing a virtual goose across the cyber-planet. It conjures up images of some of the grandest dictatorships in the world continually locked in a struggle with some whizz-kid hacker in a stale bedroom.

The internet's infinite depth, lack of respect for national boundaries and ability to afford relative anonymity to streetwise users mean that the UK's ASA will start on the backfoot when it begins to police online drinks marketing more thoroughly in March. Thanks to the UK's dastardly freedom of expression culture, the ASA won't even have the autocratic arsenal of the likes of China or Iran at its disposal.

It was inevitable that authorities would seek to control online marketing more strictly, given the growth in digital advertising. In fact, the UK has gone about it several times more sensibly than France, which simply banned all online advertising for alcoholic drinks while it pontificated on what to do.

However, chasing down individual websites and scouring Facebook to decide whether some guerrilla marketing campaign is "user-generated" or can be traced back to a company is not going to be easy. In the age of austerity, will the ASA have the resources to make this work?


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