A number of voluntary regulatory frameworks cover all advertising. Their success depends on companies choosing to abide by the guidelines to ensure that the public can trust and believe advertisements.

Print advertising

The Advertising Standards Authority, the Advertising Standards Board of Finance and the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) oversee newspaper and magazine advertisements. Each year CAP creates the British Codes of Advertising and Sales Promotion. Its basic principals say that all advertisements should be:

  • Legal, decent, honest and truthful
  • Prepared with a responsibility to consumers and society
  • Respect the principals of fair competition
  • Not bring the advertiser into disrepute

The code also includes specific rules for ads dealing with alcohol, children, motoring, environmental claims, cigarettes, database practice and other sensitive areas.

Radio advertisements

The Radio Authority regulates advertisements for radio. They draw up the Advertising and Sponsorship Code with industry experts. The basic principles for items broadcast in return for payment or other consideration should be:

  • Legal, decent, honest and truthful
  • Comply in every respect with the law, common and statute, and licensees must make it a condition of acceptance that advertisements comply

The rules are applied in spirit as well as the letter and deal with both content and the standards of presentation. Some types of advertisements need advance clearance from the Radio Authority, including those for alcoholic drinks, food and nutrition claims and those containing testimonials.

Television

The Independent Television Authority oversees TV advertising and draws up the Code of Advertising Standards and Practice. The general principles of the code are:

  • Television advertising should be legal, decent, honest and truthful
  • Advertisements must comply in every respect with the law, common or statute, and licensees must make it a condition of acceptance that advertisements comply
  • The detailed rules are intended to be applied in the spirit as well as the letter
  • The standards in the code apply to any item of publicity inserted in breaks in or between programmes, whether in return for payment or not, including publicity by licensees themselves

TV companies check advertising proposals before they accept them to make sure they comply with the guidelines. The ITC considers, investigates and publishes details of any complaints.

Deterrents

If a complaint is made about your advertisements the regulatory body can ask for it to be withdrawn or amended. This could prove expensive and you may have to rethink your whole advertising campaign. In addition, complaints can lead to bad publicity for your organisation.

The best way to avoid infringing the guidelines, particularly broadcast ads, is to get advice from the professionals. If you have any doubt about your ideas for advertisements or don't quite understand the rules, the regulatory bodies will be more than happy to help.