Insights ASA and CAP publish annual report


The Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”) and Committee of Advertising Practice (“CAP”) have published their annual report for 2023.

The year saw the end of the previous five-year strategy and the transition to a new one entitled “AI-assisted collective ad regulation”. According to the report, this new strategy will focus on particular priorities relating to climate change and the environment, and seeks to develop a permanent online regulatory framework following the conclusion of the Intermediary and Platform Principles pilot this year (which we commented upon here). There will also be a focus on increasing public and industry awareness of the work of regulating advertising, and continuing work on the move from a reactive regulatory approach to one which is more pro-active and preventative.

Part of that approach means the use of the new AI-based ‘Active Ad Monitoring system’, which captures and processes online ads and then prioritises them on the basis of which are more likely to be more problematic. The report notes that the system has led to over 3 million advertisements being processed last year, and that that figure is expected to increase to 10 million next year. According to the report, the Active Ad Monitoring system contributed to the vast majority of the over 27,000 ads that were amended or withdrawn as a result of the ASA and CAP’s intervention, as well as 23 of its published formal investigations. The system also helped support projects targeting advertisements relating to climate change and environmental claims, youth vaping, gambling, and prescription-only medicine.

The report notes that these projects will continue into 2024. The ASA has recently published research on environmental claims in ads for meat, dairy and plant-based substitutes, complementing its research and guidance on recycling and compostable claims. The CAP will also continue to engage with industry and offering support through its Copy Advice service. On youth vaping, the report notes that work will continue to drive home the obligations on industry to ensure responsible advertising of vaping products, and that we can expect a new Enforcement Notice “that addresses most, if not all, of the key players and spans across all social media platforms and all types of advertising”. There is also a particular mention of work done, and continuing to be carried out, to combat ads that “portray negative body images such as unhealthily thin models presented as aspirational or cosmetic interventions ads exploiting people’s insecurities about their bodies”.

Commenting on the report, the ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker, said that “our investment in data science and AI is equipping us with the tools to deliver more effective ad regulation. It supports the work of our expert teams and is increasingly core to our monitoring and enforcement activities through the intelligence it gives us and that we can act on. It helps us to remain flexible and adapt quickly to safeguard the interests of consumers and citizens, especially the young and vulnerable, in the rapidly changing digital landscape. And we continue to focus on our proactive work, across media as well as online, to prevent irresponsible ads appearing in the first place.”

The report can be read in full here.