From 1 March 2011, there is an important change in the legal scope of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code, which will be extended to include:
Advertisements and other marketing communications by or from companies, organisations or sole traders on their own websites, or in other non-paid-for space online under their control, that are directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods, services, opportunities and gifts, or which consist of direct solicitations of donations as part of their own fund-raising activities.”
As CAP point out, this doesn’t rule out promoting causes or ideas (which may be the case with campaign groups or social enterprises), although it does cover any material that in any way solicits donations. Nor does it mean that websites cannot contain material – such as editorial or public relations material – that is not marketing.
But the revised Code recognises that web pages, email campaigns or social media presences (your Facebook page or LinkedIn group are both “non-paid-for space online under your control”) don’t need to quote a price or include a ‘Buy Now’ button to fall within the extended remit, nor do they need to “seek overtly an immediate or short-term financial transaction or include or otherwise refer to a transactional facility”.
The ASA and CAP will be allowing a six month period of grace to raise awareness and educate business on the new requirements of the CAP Code, and that period of time could be wisely spent seeking their advice and that of your Internet services partners and providers.