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Ad industry self-regulation enters cyberspace this month when the Brussels-based European Advertising Standards Association launches its Internet site.

The European standards association's Internet venture was created to enable lobbying online and to offer tips to national self-regulation groups. Most national self-regulation associations also are in the process of creating their own World Wide Web sites.


"Our Web site is going to promote self-regulation, especially in Europe, and give consumers advice on how to file complaints in different countries," said Oliver Gray, the EASA's director general. "It will also give pointers to agencies on what to do if they plan to run [a national] campaign in another country."

The site, aimed at both industry professionals and consumers, will feature online versions of reports published by the association, including its regular Cross-border Complaints report, its Survey on Children & Advertising, Survey on the Portrayal of Women and Men and analyses of pending legislation.

The site, which will have an address later this month, will be updated every three months and will provide hot links to other EASA members' Web pages.

According to Mr. Gray, about 40% of EASA's members in 22 European countries will be on the Internet by the end of next year. First off the mark was Slovenia, where Slovensko Olasevalsko Zdruzenje, the local ad standards body, etablished a home page about a year ago.



Mr. Gray explained the Internet's use there was accelerated by the war-torn state's geographical isolation. As existing communication infrastructures were destroyed, they were replaced by more sophisticated equipment. "There has been a massive investment in new technology," he said.

But the most sophisticated national member's site is the U.K.'s Advertising Standards Authority, which went online in July (http://www.asa.org.uk).

The ASA's objective for the interactive site is fourfold: to provide online information about the authority's services, to make its codes of practice accessible, to publish the results of adjudications online and to enhance cyberspace's credibility as an advertising medium.

"We launched the site in response to demand," explained Caroline Crawford, the British authority's director of communications.

Advertisers and agencies using the medium can access self-regulation codes. These include suggestions on advertising on non-broadcast electronic media such as the Internet and commercial online services.

The flexibility of digital transmission also means the ASA's Copy Advice Team can use their PCs to download copy that an agency is working on, give approval or suggest changes before the ads are released.

For example, Guinness Brewing changed the label for one of its Web site icons from "One for the road," to "On the house" after the ASA team noted that the former wording might run afoul of the U.K.'s drunk-driving laws.


"Such moves mean consumers can see that U.K. advertising on the Internet is going to be truthful," Ms. Crawford added. "We're also telling the industry to apply our codes to electronic advertising as if it were any other type of advertising."

Major industry developments will be featured in the site's news section, in addition to monthly updates of court decisions.

The next EASA member to go online is expected to be France's Bureau de Verification de la Publicite, scheduled for late this year. "The Dutch are compiling a Web site, and the Germans and Irish are planning to do so," Mr. Gray added.

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