Comply with advertising standards

How are advertising standards regulated?


Advertising in the UK is controlled through a combination of codes of practice and legislation.

Advertising codes 

There are two advertising codes:

The CAP Code covers non-broadcast advertising, sales promotion and direct marketing. The BCAP Code covers the rules for broadcast advertising. These are enforced, where necessary, by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

If you follow the principles of the relevant codes, you are unlikely to run into legal problems. For more information about the codes and their scope, see the CAP and BAP Advertising Codes.

Broadcast regulations

If you are planning to advertise through broadcast media, such as radio or television, you will also need to be familiar with the Ofcom regulator's codes and rules.

Broadcasting regulations are detailed, with some products and services banned from being advertised over broadcast media. Particular care also needs to be taken with advertisements aimed towards children.

Since 2011, rules have been relaxed to allow product placement - ie paying to have a product or service included or referred to - in selected types of TV broadcasts. This includes:

  • films
  • series made for TV or other audiovisual media services - eg video on demand
  • sports programmes
  • light entertainment shows

However, product placement isn't allowed for certain types of goods, and it's banned completely in all children's, news, current affairs, consumer affairs and religious programming.

Consumer law

In all cases, there are specific legal requirements that your advertising must meet. The most important of these are as follows:

Your advertising must also conform to general laws governing printed and broadcast material - from accuracy and decency to copyright. Remember that you must not disparage another business or its products or services in your advertising. If you are found to have done so, you could be sued for defamation.