Does Your Content Meet ASA Guidelines?

Sarah McInerney

Head of Content

Sarah has almost three decades of experience in crafting compelling, engaging content specifically designed to boost sales and enhance brand loyalty. She’s also an expert in developing unique tone of voice that helps brands connect with their audiences. Her marketing and client service background has given Sarah a natural understanding of how to write content that makes readers take action. Whether it’s signing up to a mailing list, making an enquiry or donation or clicking the buy button, Sarah knows precisely how to convert with words. Pen down, Sarah is a proud member of the Essex Wildlife Trust and spends most of her free time enjoying inspiring walks through her local woodland and nature reserves, admiring everything that flaps, flutters and flowers.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) monitors and regulates advertising in all forms, including online content. This means it is essential that the content on your website is seen to be legal, decent, honest and truthful.

It is your responsibility to ensure that your website and other forms of media including email campaigns, Facebook, Twitter and social media posts along with the content in your blogs all adhere to ASA rules. So knowing the rules is vital.

The ASA investigates complaints from members of the public as well as carrying out independent investigations themselves and publishes their findings weekly on their website.  If an advert is upheld by the ASA to be unfair, untrue, illegal or indecent, then your business runs the risk of receiving a hefty fine along with the potentially embarrassing stigma of being named and shamed.

Beware of Using Associations to Public Events in Advertising

When there is a public event like the forthcoming birth of a royal baby, it is tempting to link in promotions to your product or service.  But it is essential that advertising does not claim to be, or even imply that a product or service is endorsed by a royal family member or linked to the royal family when it is not.  According to CAP (Committees of Advertising Practice) who write and maintain the UK Advertising Codes as administered by the ASA, marketers should seek written permission before suggesting any link or approval to an advertised product or risk legal claims.

Of course, companies can and do promote souvenir products that are linked to such public events, but care needs to be taken with images and copy. They must not imply that the souvenir is official memorabilia. In October 2012 the ASA upheld a complaint against an advert for a Prince William royal bridegroom porcelain doll because the image in the advert was found not to be an accurate representation of the product.

It is worth noting that linking promotions into public events such as a royal wedding carries a higher risk, as more people are likely to be interested and therefore complain if standards are not met. 

Your Responsibility

It is your responsibility to ensure that all of your written promotional content is legal, truthful, fair, decent and honest so that it meets the ASA’s guidelines.  This includes the content on your website as well as promotional material in adverts, emails and social media.  If necessary, it is worth paying a professional web copywriter who can interpret the rules for you.

Extra special care needs to be given to linking adverts and campaigns to public events.  Always seek the relevant permission before using any associations.

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