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ASA conference: The Future of Ad Regulation 2019-2023 Half day conference, Manchester, 1st November

Friday November 2, 2018 at 9:13am

The below notes were taken at the conference by Paul Cope of the IPM and do not necessarily represent the views of the IPM, their employees, the IPM board or IPM members.  

Welcome and Opening Remarks: Lord Currie, ASA Chairman

  • Lord Currie emphasised the importance of the UK-wide nature of the ASA, hence this event coming from Manchester, and this theme ran throughout the conference.
  • He introduced the predominantly online nature of the challenges for regulation over the next 5 years.
  • He introduced a video as a preamble to the session ahead. Watch it here.
  • The ASA’s ‘Regulation of Online Advertising’ from 27th July 2018 can be read here.

Protecting Children Online: Panel Discussion and Q&A  

Panellists (L to R):

  • Reg Bailey, Author of the Bailey Review
  • Karim Palant, UK Public Policy Manager, Facebook
  • Tina Daheley, BBC broadcaster and journalist (Chair)
  • Prof Tanya Byron, Author of the Byron Review
  • Shahriar Coupal, Director, Committees of Advertising Practice (behind the lectern)

Key points:

  • The ASA receives approx. 30,000 complaints per year, of which approx. 7,000 are banned, 88% of which are online.
  • All media should abide by – and be judged against – the same consistent, rigorous standards.
  • It is important that the ASA is proactive through application of tech tools (e.g. machine learning) where possible as well as responding to complaints.
  • The ASA also has a role in providing proactive training and advice to advertisers – ‘prevention’ is always better than ‘cure’.
  • But, there are still huge challenges and baseline statutory regulation is important – many of the most serious issues are society-wide, not just in advertising.
  • As opportunity and risk online are aligned, this is an exercise in ensuring public trust in advertising and, therefore, responsibility by advertisers and media owners/online platforms is essential.
  • Part of this responsibility is to recognise the importance of collaboration and transparency by advertisers with the ASA, as in the offline world.
  • “99%” of problematic social media content is removed by algorithmic tools, but further clarity is required to ensure complete compliance of the remaining 1%.
  • The misunderstanding of the guidance often leads to consumer perception of the online space being a ‘wild west’.
  • The ASA’s guidance on ‘interest-based targeting’ in 2018 (https://www.asa.org.uk/advice-online/children-targeting.html) sought to address this, and further reviews are planned with Facebook and Google.
  • A question was asked regarding the issue of sign-ups to certain platforms by children (e.g. WhatsApp), especially given that some teachers are recommending that entire classes create WhatsApp groups (which can often descend into bullying and other damaging behaviours).
  • Current technology limitations and GDPR rules make this challenging to police (especially around multi-stage age verification tools), and the panel recognised the important role of parents in this process.
  • Ultimately, the responsibility for driving awareness, education and (self-) regulation rests with all parties that have power to effect change – advertisers, agencies, media owners, social media platforms, regulators and responsible adults.

Regulating Newer Forms of Advertising Online: Panel Discussion and Q&A

Panellists (L to R):

  • Simon Jones, Managing Partner, Wavemaker & IPA North West City Head
  • Kat Molesworth, Co-founder and Director of Blogtacular
  • Russell Parsons, editor of Marketing Week (Chair)
  • Lilian Betty, Head of Strategic Partnerships, TI Media
  • Guy Parker, Chief Executive, ASA (behind the lectern)

Key points: 

  • The key means to ensure the responsibility and effectiveness of the ASA is ‘future-proofed’ is to keep up with the budget and influence growth of online advertising.
  • Trust and transparency issues tend to be occurring towards the end of the ‘long tail’ – most big advertisers are doing a decent job – which is another reason that the ‘wild west’ perception persists.
  • Specific challenges around influencer marketing continue, especially around fake volume numbers, supply of performance data, and authenticity of influencers;
    • How will the ASA scale its service/education to respond to new, quickly emerging areas e.g. e-sports, VR.
    • Platforms are now the key barrier to success – they’re bigger and more powerful than the ASA – so how do the ASA keep pace and encourage collaboration and transparency?
    • How will the ASA be able to effectively police long-form content, especially when much of it is so similar to editorial?
    • How can the ASA preempt and educate advertisers, and help them understand the potential damage poor practice does to everyone involved?

Launch of the ASA’s 5-year Corporate Strategy (2019-2023): Guy Parker, Chief Executive, ASA

  • Guy Parker presented the 6 strands of the ASA’s 5-year corporate strategy – the presentation can be found here.

Gender Stereotypes in Advertising: Ella Smillie, Gender Stereotyping Lead, CAP

  • Ella Smillie presented the background on the research and development of the CAP guidance on gender stereotyping – the consultation from 17th May 2018 can be found here.
  • It covers many areas, including;
    • Addressing limiting behaviour or damaging perceptions as a result of advertising communication (e.g. attributing outmoded gender roles to children).
    • Establishing whether communication causes offence or causes harm, and the role of context in this (e.g. a mildly offensive message – which might be mitigated by a message/media/audience context – versus something that causes genuine mental harm).
    • How advertising creates pressure to conform to unhealthy stereotypes (e.g. young men not feeling able to admit to certain mental health issues, such as anxiety).
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