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Advertisers are ultimately responsible for the content of their adverts

David Bond
21/01/2015

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United Kingdom

In recent rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA"), advertisers are reminded that they are ultimately responsible for the content of their adverts. The Committee of Advertising Practice In recent rulings by the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA"), advertisers are reminded that they are ultimately responsible for the content of their adverts. The Committee of Advertising Practice who write and maintain the UK Advertising Codes ("CAP Code") reaffirmed that, although other parties involved in the preparing or publishing of marketing communications are obliged to comply with the CAP Code, advertisers have the primary responsibility to observe it.

In two separate instances, the advertising content contained footage that had been certified by the British Board of Film Classification as either "15" or "18" and the advertisers communicated their briefs to agencies. In both instances the content classification was clearly communicated and thus the advertisers made it clear that only adults aged 18 and older should be targeted.

In the first instance the advertiser's advert for a popular zombie television show which featured violent and graphic footage ended up on a free game website for a non-age-gated game. Despite the advertising platform using targeting filters, the game the advert was featured on could appeal to children and was thus seen by a child.

In the second instance a pre-roll advert for a horror film which featured disturbing footage appeared before a video on YouTube for the game Minecraft which could (and does) appeal to children. The advert was viewed by a child who became distressed. The advertiser's agency who worked with YouTube had had an agreement in place to ensure that the advert was targeted at the correct audience.

The ASA ruled in both cases that the adverts appeared on mediums that might be seen by children and therefore the advertisers were in breach of CAP Code rule 1.3 regarding social responsibility. The key message the ASA seems to be imparting is that reasonable measures taken by an advertiser are not enough to avoid being caught by the CAP Code.

Although an advertiser cannot displace its responsibility under the CAP Code, it is always worth ensuring that contracts with its agency and/or advertising platform contain provisions to mitigate any potential damage they may suffer. Sanctions under the CAP Code can cause long standing reputational and financial damage. Provisions compensating the advertiser for these types of losses, or provisions requiring more care to be taken by the advertising platform, could help reduce the advertiser's risk of infringing the CAP Code.

To view the full ASA adjudications please click on one of the links below:

http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/12/Entertainment-One-UK-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_281351.aspx#

http://www.asa.org.uk/Rulings/Adjudications/2014/12/Universal-Pictures-International-UK-and-Eire-Ltd/SHP_ADJ_277493.aspx#

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