Know your regulatory body: the ASA

Here at the Prizeologist we thought it might be helpful to do a series of short posts on the organisations which regulate how prize promotions are run – so that’s what we’re going to do. First up is the ASA.

Name: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)

Need to know: The ASA is the UK’s independent advertising regulator. It’s funded by a levy on the cost of advertising space and it regulates prize promotions through The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing, more commonly known as the CAP Code. If consumers (or anyone in fact, like your competitors) want to complain about a promotion, they complain to the ASA, and the ASA publishes its rulings every Wednesday.

Famous cases: There are so many to choose from – in 2016 the ASA resolved 28,251 complaints about 16,999 ads – but one example is a Walkers Spell and Go on-pack prize promotion. In order to win one of the 20,000 holidays on offer, snack-eaters had to collect letters to spell out the name of a destination, but the promotion generated over a hundred complaints to the ASA. After an investigation, the ASA criticised one specific aspect of the prize promotion mechanic and instructed Walkers to withdraw a TV ad, which it ruled was misleading.

The ASA is increasingly called on to adjudicate on complaints about lack of disclosure by social media influencers. An example of this is a complaint against Mondelez UK about promotional videos for Oreo cookies made by five YouTubers, including the high profile Dan and Phil. The ASA decided that, despite statements such as ‘Thanks to Oreo for making this video possible,’ the financial relationship between Mondelez and the vloggers – the fact that they were being paid to talk about Oreo cookies – was not clear. It ruled that the CAP Code had been contravened and the ads could not be shown again.

Penalties: The threat of bad publicity is usually enough to encourage companies to toe the CAP Code line, but, although the ASA can’t issue fines, it can instruct companies to remove or take down content. It can also refer companies which consistently flout industry codes such as the CAP Code to other bodies, such as Trading Standards or OfCom, and these referrals occasionally result in court cases.

And finally: Just a reminder that Prizeology specialises in compliance and has a lot of experience with social media influencers, so we’re in the perfect position to advise clients on how to navigate the ins and outs of the CAP Code.

Sarah Burns is Prizeology’s Chief Prizeologist, an IPM Board Director, and a SCAMbassador for National Trading Standards Scams Team. She loves the ASA, and has been known to read its adjudications when they are published at midnight.

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