We've recently reported on the swift action the ASA has been taking in response to misleading coronavirus ads in our FAQs for Advertisers. The ASA has now gone further by introducing a new reporting form designed to fast-track consumer complaints about ads that seek to stoke fears and take advantage of the pandemic.
The ASA is focusing its sights on ads that promote phantom cures and products that misleadingly claim to protect against the virus. Rightly so. With the internet and social media filled with dubious reports about potential remedies, cures and clever tricks to avoid infection, we are faced with a deluge of fake news that fuels the fear and panic and, even more importantly, distracts from the genuine information that people actually need.
Whilst the ASA doesn't need to wait for a consumer complaint to investigate a misleading, irresponsible or harmful ad, it does have limited resources and therefore relies to a great extent on proactive consumer engagement.
So the new reporting form will help by streamlining the complaints process and making it even easier to get coronavirus advertising in front of the right people as quickly as possible. The form only requires the most basic information about the ad (who, what, where) and doesn't ask for any personal details.
It's welcome news from the ad regulator, but what we also need to see is more proactive direct action from platforms and publishers to monitor and take down these ads as quickly as they pop up. The ASA can name and shame, but it's the platforms and publishers who control the on/off switch.
It's in the nature of this blog that from time-to-time we have a pop at the ASA, but we'd like to take this opportunity to express our support for them on this occasion.
Although the majority act in good faith, there are a number of businesses and advertisers seeking to use the coronavirus pandemic to profit off people’s fears