Advertising Marketing

What Regulation is in place in the UK?

The UK advertising industry is governed by strict codes of practice that are designed to protect consumers and create a level playing field for advertisers. Within these codes there are robust provisions relating to children. The codes are self-regulatory and cover all kinds of promotional communications. For both codes, a child is mainly defined as 'anyone under 16', although there are a small number of addition provisions for younger children.

The UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) applies to the content and scheduling of television and radio advertisements. It also covers programme sponsorship credits on radio and television services but complaints about these are handled by Ofcom.

The UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (CAP Code) applies to advertisements across media including newspapers, magazines, billboards, posters, leaflets, mailings, e-mails, texts and on UK based company websites.

Both codes include general rules that state advertising must be responsible, must not mislead, or offend. Both codes also contain specific rules that apply to advertising of food and soft drink to children. Specifically, the advertising of products high in fat, salt or sugar (often referred to as 'HFSS') is not permitted in media of appeal to under 16, whether that be in and around children's tv programs, on school buses, or on websites that may have a particular appeal to child audiences. A food or drink is defined as 'HFSS' or 'non HFSS' by using the UK nutrient profiling model.

The UK nutrient profiling model is currently under review, and a new model is not expected to be announced until the first quarter of 2019. CAP and BCAP will then consult on the usability, proportionality and credibility of the new model and how best to incorporate it into advertising codes. FDF has concerns about the newly proposed model - specifically that a free sugars criterion will make the model difficult to use, and that it would prevent the advertising of pure fruit juices and smoothies, most high fibre breakfast cereals and sweetened yogurts / fromage frais.

Who is the regulatory body for advertising in the UK?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK independent regulator for advertising across all media. ASA responds to complaints and proactively checks the media to take action against misleading, harmful or offensive advertisements, sales promotions and direct marketing. If ASA judges an advert to be in breach of the Codes, it must be withdrawn or amended and the advertiser must not use the approach again. Further information is available at ASA: About Regulation

Industry Best Practice

UK advertising codes are amongst the strictest in the world and compliance is high. However, many companies go further than the provisions set out in the codes.

FDF has developed a summary of voluntary activity which sets out wider activities some companies are currently undertaking.

Did you find this information useful?

Find our more about what FDF can offer - our membership team will be happy to answer any questions that you have on 020 7420 7208 or email members.enquiries@fdf.org.uk

SME Toolkit index

FDF has collated information on the following topics:

Guidance on other topics coming soon