UK: Online drinks adverts face tighter scrutiny

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  • Facebook, company websites to be policed
  • New rules to come into force from March
  • Industry concern over user-generated content

Both alcoholic and soft drinks companies in the UK face tighter restrictions on their online marketing following confirmation that the country's Advertising Standards Authority will expand its digital remit.


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said today (1 September) that it will broaden its regulation of digital advertising to include advertisers' own websites. It will also attempt to police non-paid-for space on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

The move is confirmation that the ASA has been looking at taking a tougher stance on online adverts, including those for drinks, as reported by just-drinks in July.

From 1 March next year, all online marketing for both alcoholic and soft drinks will be subject to the same regulations as current print, broadcast and paid-for online banners.

“This significant extension of the ASA's remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart," said ASA chairman Lord Chris Smith. "We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn't deal with."

If the ASA finds online marketing in breach of the UK advertising code, it could order the material to be removed from the web. It will work with search engines such as Google to ensure that the marketing disappears.

Alternatively, the ASA said that it may take out its own advertisements to highlight a particular advertiser's refusal to comply. It is thought that fines will not apply to the extended areas of the ASA's digital remit.

There has been considerable concern in the drinks and advertising industries about how social networking sites like Facebook can be policed. Back in July, Dr Ian Twinn, director of public affairs at advertisers' trade body, ISBA, said: "What you can't have is advertisers being held responsible for something that a group of students whip up at three o'clock in the morning."

For the ASA announcement, click here.

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