The Advertising Standards Authority, the UK industry regulator, has indicated that online advertising will be a focus of attention over the next five years and that the industry as a whole needs to get behind self-regulation.

“We’re a much more proactive regulator as a result of the work we’ve done in the last five years,” said ASA chief executive Guy Parker. “In the next five, we want to have even more impact regulating online advertising.”

The particular ‘online’ focus of the new strategy is a response to the fact that businesses are increasingly advertising online, people are spending more time online, and the pace of change online is contributing to people’s concerns.

That is already reflected in the ASA’s workload: 88% of the 7,099 ads amended or withdrawn in 2017 following its action were online ads, either in whole or in part; and two-thirds of the 19,000 cases it resolved last year were about online ads.

“Our success will rely on the commitment of the industry to delivering better online advertising regulation,” Parker told Marketing Week. “The [self-regulatory system] requires buy-in and support to be sustainable. We obviously need that in the context of our regulation of online advertising.”

The alternative of statutory regulation “would be very bad for the industry”, he added: more expensive for businesses, slower and less flexible.

“We do need the commitment of everyone in the industry that produces and runs ads to make a success of this strategy. This is not an internal strategy, it is a strategy that requires the support of everyone.”

Beyond the online environment, the ASA also faces challenges around new areas like areas like voice, facial recognition, machine-generated personalised content and biometrics.

It is also exploring new ways for people to flag their concerns without having to go through the full complaints process – which could involve technological solutions such as data-driven intelligence gathering and machine learning.

“There is a desire to use tech better ourselves, including but not limited to machine learning, to help deal with the huge volumes of advertising in the UK,” said Parker.

Sourced from ASA, Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff