In September, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) announced details of its plans to regulate online content, including marketing activities in social media, by extending the CAP code to all online content in the control of a brand or organisation.
Generally I think anything to help provide people with a better experience of brands online and to help guide brands’ behaviour on t’internet is a good move. However, most reputable brands are already behaving, well, reputably. They hold two way dialogue with people, honestly, transparently, with full disclosure and no attempts at deception.
The challenge for the ASA will be policing the application of the CAP code to online content, particularly content in social media where there is a grey area on who owns the content. At a recent Marketing conference, a spokesperson from the ASA responded to a question about how the code applied to social media with the answer that ‘any UGC under a brand’s control will fall under the CAP code’. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to explore the issue further and clarify how CAP applies to ‘shared media’.
Shared media is content that isn’t quite owned by a brand or by a user. For example, comments by a user on a brand’s Facebook Page, blog or YouTube channel, is usually referred to as shared media.
So, if a user makes a comment on a brand owned social media that doesn’t comply with the CAP code, then what happens? Does the brand have to take it down? But if so, does the brand have a right to delete a comment that technically doesn’t belong to them? I think this is an area that the ASA need to provide some clarity.
IMHO there is still a large amount of grey in this move by the ASA. Perhaps the ASA should work more closely with those bodies that have great experience in conversational type communications e.g. PRCA, CIPR, WOMMA. Stuart Bruce, with who I sit on the CIPR Social Media committee makes a very pointed comment here.
Rob Brown, chair of the committee, expresses probably all our concerns here.
Clarity is definitely needed, but until we receive that clarity, brands need to go on behaving reputably online, by being transparent, honest and listening to what people are saying.