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Effects of ASA legislation on email marketing industry

Effects of ASA legislation on email marketing industry

As of 1st March 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority can now police all online content and can make rulings about any material they find does not meet their stringent guidelines.

Previously, the ASA has only been able to monitor paid for advertising but its remit will now include email marketing, websites, all branded content and paid for comment on social networks and blogs.

From 2008 to present, the ASA received over 4500 complaints about online content that it has not been able to make ruling on. However, as a general rule, marketers will receive amply warning to comply with the ASA; it will only be repeat offenders that will come under fire. Marketing companies that are challenged by the ASA could see their advertising content removed from search engines altogether.

Key sections of the new legislation for email marketing companies are as follows: From Section 2.2 of The Code: “unsolicited email marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as marketing communications without the need to open them.”

From Section 2.3: “marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context.”

Section 2.2 makes clear that email marketing campaign subject lines will need to be adapted to make the material recognisable as marketing content. Hopefully you are doing this already but this could have an impact on email campaign results as it reduces the number of opens you receive.

Section 2.3 further clarifies that email marketing must be clearly recognisable as such. Chairman of the ASA, Lord Chris Smith spoke last year of the new policies they would be implementing; he said ‘this significant extension of the ASA’s remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart.’

CAP Chairman Andrew Brown added to the mix, ‘Extending the online remit of the ASA has been a top priority for the UK industry over the last couple of years. Our aim has been to extend further in the online world the principles that are already well established in our system, namely those of effective consumer protection and fair competition’.

Email marketing will undoubtedly continue to be lambasted and accused of being unsolicited by those with a lesser understanding of the industry but the crucial change the ASA legislation will bring is to reduce the small number of industry cowboys who deliberately send email marketing campaigns in disguise. For the most part then, those of us sending genuine, targeted emails should have nothing to worry about.

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