Social media self-regulation code proposed for the UK

March 10, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Posted in Ethics | 3 Comments
Tags: AA, ASA, CAP code, IAB UK, social media advertising, social media regulation, wom uk

As reported by IAB UK, “the advertising industry has come together to recommend an extension of the self-regulatory rules for non-broadcast media (known as the ‘CAP Code’)”.

The recommendation, driven by the Advertising Association (AA) suggests that the existing code, administered by the ASA, be extended from paid-for online space to cover advertisers’ own spaces as well as independent sites.

It’s a logical next move in the ‘ethics and transparency’ debate, and something that advertisers have long been calling out for. But it remains to be seen exactly what the code will cover, and how those regulations will be implemented, especially when entering the realm of independent consumer word of mouth.

It’s pretty clear that the code’s remit will cover blatant advertising and won’t try to tackle more subtle WOM engagement campaigns – but with the stated intention of ensuring that online all marketing activity will be ‘responsible, legal, honest and truthful’, there’s bound to be some grey areas and overlap.

For example, look at incentivisation by brands wanting to get people online to talk. Many people equate their activity in social media with chatting in the pub with friends, so any consciousness of their responsibilities to the code would require a big change in outlook. If you are handed free chocolate outside the tube, do you expect to have to tell your friends a disclaimer before raving about it in the office? Total brand transparency is essential in this space but peer to peer transparency is complex.

There are issues raised here that need thought and public discussion as much as rules, and we could certainly learn from some of the debate around the FTC Guidelines being instituted in the US.

What do you think? We’ll keep you updated as more details emerge…

Should social media be paid for? IAB and WOM UK say yes…

December 8, 2009 at 1:19 pm | Posted in Ethics, Events | Leave a Comment
Tags: IAB, should social media be paid for, social media advertising, wom uk, word of mouth

Last night’s joint IAB and WOM UK debate, ‘Should social media be paid for?‘, was intended to be taken with a big pinch of salt. The two teams purposefully dug their heels in, ramped up the drama and pushed their views to the extreme to make the assembled crowd really question the possibilities and limits of paid advertising in the social space – but some genuinely interesting issues surfaced amongst the bombast.

On the ‘for’ side, Kate Box, Head of Social Media Sales at Microsoft Advertising, and Steve Filler, Commercial Director for Unruly Media, made the case that consumers don’t mind whether content is paid for. Brands need to act like brands, and they claimed that visibly advertising is more honest; paid advertising in the social space gets results, and is essential for the survival of the industry.

In the ‘against’ corner, President of WOM UK and WOM Evangelist at 1000heads Molly Flatt joined Ciarán Norris, Head of Social Marketing at Mindshare, to assert that paid media is, and should remain, by definition separate to earned or social media. Although paid can inspire social interaction, the independent social space is all about relationships, flourishing on a currency of status, passion, expertise and networking, and those can’t be bought. Interactive, digital, online PR and the like all have their place – but they’re not truly social media.

The votes came down on the side of ‘for’, but the atmosphere was lighthearted as both sides acknowledged that valuing one did not exclude the importance of the other, and that a mix of paid stimulation and inspired independent WOM and listening is best. For an idea of how an integrated view can look, it’s worth reading Neilsen’s Pete Blackshaw‘s recent post on Maximizing Super Bowl Advertising ROI in a Paid Vs. Earned Media Environment.

Some genuinely interesting grey areas also emerged. Where does inspiration end and payment begin, when brands are providing trials and freebies? Doesn’t the industry need to firm up its definitions so that brands don’t just think they’re ‘earning social’ by throwing a few interactive ads online? And isn’t it essential that brands don’t see social media attention as ‘free’ – more that they must pay for it in man hours for listening, responding and creativity, rather than cash?

If you couldn’t make it to the sold-out event, let us know your thoughts and questions below, and look out for future collaborations. What would you like to see debated next?

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