The Advertising Standards Authority is making the first attempt to stop
the Internet from becoming a free-for-all for maverick advertisers.
The ASA said this week that it was trying to head-off potential problems
by launching a copy advice service for would-be Internet advertisers. It
also pledged to expose companies that deliberately flout the rules.
However, ASA executives admit they have no power to impose their
authority on the Internet, where advertisers are answerable to no-one,
and that the publicity weapon is the only one at their disposal.
The problem was highlighted at the beginning of the year when Friends of
the Earth exploited regulatory loopholes to run an Internet ad accusing
loggers in the Brazilian rainforest of murder. The ASA had already
banned the ad from cinemas (Campaign, 8 December 1995).
The ASA’s bid to bring some order to Internet advertising came as the
authority announced the launch of its own Website. It will offer advice
to advertisers and agencies and guidance to Internet users who want to
complain about ads.
For the time being, how-ever, consumers will have to continue to use
traditional means to voice their complaints. The ASA said that at the
moment it was not able to cope with a potential flood of complaints via
The authority said it did not expect problems from established
advertisers but that it was worried about small companies - particularly
those in the mail-order sector - that ask for money to be sent to
foreign box numbers.
Matti Alderson, the ASA director general, commented: ‘Our initiative is
being welcomed by everybody who wants to see the Internet accepted as a
credible medium. Currently, it is a complete free-for-all. The medium
can’t be fully policed because, unlike all the others, it doesn’t have a