The United Kingdom's Advertising Standards Authority announced this week that beginning March 11, 2011, it will have authority over all online marketing and advertising.
The regulations that become effective that day will allow the authority to remove misleading ads from social networks and company websites, and to remove misleading pay-per-click ads from search engine pages. Moreover, the ASA will also have the authority to replace the ads that have been removed with ads that tout the offending company's "continued noncompliance."
Though the announcement was not clear regarding exactly how the ASA will find the ads worthy of removing, experts speculate that enforcement will be reactive rather than proactive. In an e-mail, Greenlight senior account manager Paul Byrne said:
It will likely operate as it does offline and wait for a complaint to be raised before conducting an investigation and taking action.
Byrne also cautioned companies that use online ads to be more vigilant about the content they put out there - especially on social networks. Because social networks are so new, they are not as heavily regulated as other modes of advertising, but the new regulations will require companies to "implement stringent and rigorous measures to ensure they are fully aware of [online] exchanges and can act appropriately," he said. Otherwise they may face fines.