The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is extending its digital remit to include all marketing communications online in all sectors regardless of an organisation's size.

Marketing communications on advertisers' own websites, social media sites and through "advergames" will be subject to the same regulation as TV and newspaper ads under the revised CAP Code, devised by the Committee of Advertising Practice.

The new rules regulating marketing communications in non-paid-for-spaces will come into force on 1 March 2011, allowing a six month period for training and education by CAP and ASA.

"The drafting of the new remit is framed so as to focus specifically upon material which can be properly accepted as constituting an advertisement or other marketing communication. This responds to a particular challenge of regulating websites and other non-paid-for space online under an advertiser’s control. Websites can include marketing communications and other types of communication including, for example, editorial, public relations e.g. press releases and investor relations material that must properly remain outside the remit of the CAP Code and, therefore, outside the jurisdiction of the ASA," the remit extension document explains.

"Journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes and ideas - except those that are direct solicitations of donations for fund-raising - are excluded from the remit," says a press release from the ASA.

New sanctions for advertisers and websites that break the code will also be introduced, including removal of paid-for search engine advertising linking to the non-compliant organisations with the agreement of the search engines. According to ASA, the authority may also place its own paid-for search advertisements highlighting continued non-compliance by advertisers.

"This significant extension of the ASA's remit has the protection of children and consumers at its heart. We have received over 4,500 complaints since 2008 about marketing communications on websites that we couldn't deal with, but from 1 March anyone who has a concern about a marketing communication online will be able to turn to the ASA," says the ASA's chairman Lord Chris Smith in the release.

The cost of the extended remit will be met by initial "seed capital" from Google and an extension of the ASA's existing funding model: a 0.1 per cent levy on paid-for advertisements.

CAP, the ASA and the Advertising Standards Board of Finance (ASBOF) will conduct a quarterly review of the extended remit with plans to carry out a full review in the second quarter of 2013 two years after the new rules were introduced.

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