The Growing Regulatory Challenge of Policing Video Content for Advertisers on Broadcast Platforms
The UK TV advertising market has been long established as the most stringent worldwide in relation to independent regulation, with all TV adverts being required to be pre-approved via Clearcast (previously known as the BACC) prior to airing on TV channels across the UK.
This unique regulatory body, funded by the key broadcast media owners, ensures that all UK advertisers adhere to the ASA BCAP Code, whereby all claims in the advert are both independently proven and substantiated. This thorough methodology instigated by Clearcast is employed by Media Owners to create a balanced ‘playing field’ for all marketers in the UK who wish to employ broadcast TV, and furthermore to help to protect the end-consumer against false claims for TV advertised products and services.
In recent years, as social media platforms have become ubiquitous in daily consumer media consumption, an extraordinary level of new video advertising content can be produced and published instantaneously by both individuals and companies alike. This new marketing era has created a huge challenge for both Regulators and Media Owners alike in terms of regulation in the UK. The consumer also has growing concerns too – the MEDIA Nations 2019 Report published by OFCOM in August reported 45% of all adults think that all types of online video content should now be regulated.
Regulation of social media video advertising in many ways is based on the same premise as many foreign territories, including the United States, whereby advertisers are able to air copy on TV on the assumption that they have adhered to the published regulatory guidelines, as opposed to the pre-clearance process in the UK. If advertisers are found ‘after the fact’ to have abused the given guidelines, then they often face post broadcast reprimand by Regulators – in the most severe case criminal prosecution and ultimately exclusion.
This absence of pre-clearing video advertising copy on social media platforms can be argued to give advertisers a greater creative license to market their wares to a global and continually growing audience. However, this lack of regulatory control has led to recent global negative publicity for the social media platforms, notably Facebook, and enabled these media owners to become unintended promotional vehicles for highly undesirable content; creating considerable political and social unease globally.
Whilst the sheer volume of new content produced on a second by second basis is virtually impossible to adequately police satisfactorily, new investment by Facebook/Instagram in terms of increased human monitoring and enhanced technology may help to improve the standards applied to video advertising published online looking ahead. Confidence badly needs to be re-established in these social media platforms, but without regulatory strength this is going to be a difficult goal to achieve and legitimate advertisers will ultimately suffer under the weight of mistrust.
That said we would also question whether the UK regulatory bodies are taking this a ‘step too far’ for TV advertisers? The rulings this week by the ASA against PHILADELPHIA and VOLKSWAGEN for their recent TV advertising for what they deem to be ‘offensive gender stereotyping’ content will be very costly to these brands. We therefore have to question where will the future lines be drawn? Are these TV adverts really damaging? What certainly will be damaging is if over-inflated regulation makes it less and less appealing for advertisers to utilise broadcast media looking ahead.
Whilst the UK regulation of TV can sometimes be perceived as too challenging by some advertisers and marketers as it stands the protection it gives to consumers is ultimately a price worth paying to ensure the advertising industry maintains its credibility for the viewing audience. This unique regulatory standard in the UK should be welcomed by all advertisers alike regardless of the platform they advertise on to create a genuine level ‘playing field’ for all, so long as the Regulators ensure their administration of all the broadcast media landscape is both fair and reasonable.