There are two advertising codes of practice in the UK. These are the responsibility of industry committees:
The CAP Code
The non-broadcast code applies to advertisements, sales promotions and direct-marketing communications. This includes:
- advertisements in printed material - eg newspapers, magazines, brochures and leaflets
- posters in public places, including those with moving images
- commercials in cinemas and on DVDs, videos and Blu-ray discs
- electronic media advertisements other than on radio or television - eg paid-for internet search listings and online advertisements, including banner and pop-up advertisements
- any online statement under your control that's intended to sell your product or service.
- advertisements in e-mails, faxes and mobile phone text messages - including SMS, MMS (multimedia messaging service) and those transmitted via Bluetooth
- sales promotions, wherever they appear
- advertorials - ie advertisements designed to look like editorial text
The BCAP Code
The broadcast code applies to all advertisements and sponsorship credits on radio and television services licensed by the industry regulator Ofcom. This includes:
- content on self-promotional television channels
- television text and interactive television advertisements
Under both codes you must be able to prove what is claimed in your advertisements. In addition, if you are presenting a point of view about your products you must make it clear that it is an opinion rather than a statement of fact.
Compliance with the relevant code helps your advertising stay within the law. You should ask yourself the following questions:
- Is the marketing communication socially irresponsible?
- Is it likely to offend its audience or cause fear or distress without good reason?
- Does it show unsafe or anti-social behaviour?
- Does it encourage people to break the law?
There are also specific requirements that apply to specific sectors, in areas from food and medicines to tobacco and alcohol. For example, you can claim your drink is 'low in alcohol' only if it contains between 0.5 per cent and 1.2 per cent alcohol by volume.
Guidance on complying
There is also a wide range of advice available from CAP, to help you ensure your advertisements and direct marketing don't breach the Committee's codes.
Search previous Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) rulings to find guidance on specific issues and products.
To help with your non-broadcast media advertising, you can register for alerts on rulings and guidance from the CAP and the ASA. These alerts are issued each time a business has breached the rules. Checking the relevant alerts may prevent future problems.
The CAP offer a free bespoke copy advice service to help organisations find out if their ad campaign complies with the rules.