Impact of new online advertising code on the health sector

Rules for advertising online

Over the coming weeks you may notice an advertising campaign by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) which will be raising awareness about the rules governing marketing on websites.

This campaign is to highlight the ASA’s new remit which comes into effect on March 1st 2011 and how it will affect businesses who use online marketing communications.

I’m a health practitioner, will this affect me?

This remit is for anyone advertising and marketing services online, including the health sector and:

  • Complementary therapies
  • Natural health products
  • Therapy courses and training

Basically, any practitioner, business or training course is included. The way that you advertise or describe your services online will now come under closer scrutiny by the ASA. Websites will have to ensure marketing communications are legal, decent, honest and truthful as well as being socially responsible and protecting children.

The remit also applies to ‘non paid for space’ controlled by you such as:

  • Blogs
  • Social network platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter)
  • Directory Profile Pages
  • Cost Per Click Ads
  • Paid for search advertisements

In fact, anywhere your service or business is advertised online should meet the CAP advertising code.

What is a marketing communication?

It’s any message or communication on your website that primarily sets out to sell something including:

  • Goods
  • Services
  • Opportunities or
  • Gifts

It may not necessarily include a price or involve a financial transaction so even direct requests for donations for fund-raising will be under its jurisdiction.

Under the rules a ‘marketing communication’ does not include:

  • Classified private advertisement
  • Press Releases
  • Public Relations material
  • Editorial content
  • Political advertisements
  • Corporate reports

Therefore, a distinction is being made between promotional and editorial content but as a responsible website owner you should always ensure that whatever the content is, it is always honest, reliable and transparent so as to improve the user’s online experience and ensure their safety.

The ASA will only be regulating advertisements and marketing communications. Any editorial content you create, or user generated content created by private individuals and placed on your website, only falls into their remit if you then adopt or incorporate it into your online marketing communications.

As an example, if a client writes something about your service that you then use in your online marketing, you must ensure it is within the CAP code. The ASA will monitor this on a case-by-case basis but a different view will be taken should the positive comment be posted in a prominent position on the front page of your website compared to being viewed in context on say a moderated consumer message board.

What should I do now?

The code is not there to catch you out or curb what you say, it is a set of standards to protect consumers and businesses. To ensure your online marketing communications comply with the new standards, it is advisable to sign up to CAP services who will be providing guidance and training to help you before the rules come into effect on March 1st 2011.

CAP will be providing training seminars, online tools and site audits. You can find more advice about the new digital remit and these services here

Internet marketing expertsAbout The Author

GoToSee offer a unique blend of experience in both the fields of alternative medicine/complementary therapy and internet marketing.

Our internet marketing experts have years of experience of driving targeted traffic to websites using a mix of search engine skills, public relations and online and offline marketing.

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