The Advertising Standards Authority has joined forces with platform giants Meta, Google, Amazon, Twitter and TikTok to help expand the watchdog's powers online, with the participating organisations agreeing to raise awareness among brands of ad rules and to demand compliance from transgressors.
In what the ASA is describing as a "world first", the Intermediary and Platform Principles pilot scheme is the result of an agreement between itself and members of the Internet Advertising Bureau UK, which include Meta, Google, Amazon Ads, Twitter, TikTok, Yahoo, Adform and Index Exchange.
Running for a year commencing June 2022 and designed to bring about greater accountability and transparency to online advertising, the pilot will involve online platforms, demand-side platforms and supply-side platforms, with all of them voluntarily agreeing to provide information to the ASA to prove they are abiding by the scheme's principles.
Those principles will put the onus on platforms to ensure advertisers are aware of rules, with the online giants pledging to help the ASA "to secure compliance in cases when an advertiser appears unwilling or is unable to comply".
The UK's ad watchdog will use this information alongside other "intelligence collected throughout the reporting period, to publish an aggregated interim report and a final report", both of which will be publicly accessible on the ASA website.
The final report will be published as an independent account of how the companies have performed overall according to the principles, noting strengths and weaknesses, areas of good practice and highlighting where companies can improve.
The ASA said that in keeping with the spirit of a collaborative pilot, the findings would form an "aggergated overview" with "non attributable examples" of positives and negatives.
However, a spokesman for the ASA told Campaign: "Any formal arrangements that follow the pilot will consider very seriously the importance of attributable reporting within a transparency and accountability framework."
All of the information gleaned from the pilot will be used by the ASA to identify gaps in its ability to enforce the CAP Code online, and what action can be taken to help it better police online advertising.
The news comes as the ASA's efforts to tackle online rule-breakers gather pace. In January this year it announced a clampdown on influencers who fall foul, threatening to de-monetise those individuals who break the rules, while earlier this week, it upped the ante on cryptocurrency advertisers that flout regulations, targeting 50 companies and warning of bans and Financial Conduct Authority censure should they fail to comply.
Guy Parker, the ASA's chief executive, said: "The role that leading digital companies play to uphold advertising standards online and help deliver better outcomes for the public is not well-known or understood.
"This pilot brings more accountability and transparency to this area of our work and serves as an important contribution to future policy thinking in this area."
Jon Mew, CEO of IAB, added: "Creating more transparency and accountability within digital advertising is in all of our best interests and it's really positive to see our members proactively volunteering to be part of the pilot and demonstrate their commitment to the regulatory system.
"It's no secret that the most effective regulatory measures are developed with the co-operation and input of the industry, and based on robust evidence, and we believe that this pilot will set an example of how that can best be achieved."