IAB: Rules Rules Rules

This post first appeared on the blog of the IAB on August 8th, 2011 —

18th January 2011. That was the date of the this year’s first meeting of the IAB Social Media Council (SMC). Back then all the talk was about the impending ASA remit extension that would very very soon cover not only companies’ marketing claims on their own websites, but also in other non-paid for space they control – aka, ‘earned media’.

As an industry trade body the SMC assembled and collectively pondered on what would be considered best practice for adhering to these standards. I don’t think it was at that meeting that any kind of course of action was agreed, however, I do believe a large amount of the assembled members agreed that, like our US counterparts, ‘#ad‘ would probably work best.

Fast forward six months and with the remit fully in place, has anything changed? Not really. Has there been a seismic shift in the behaviour of online advertisers? Probably not.

Admittedly we haven’t seen any major cases reported to the ASA quite yet, but isn’t that thanks to a certain level of understanding and intelligence of your average internet user? If we move away from the online world for a second and instead think about the combined worlds of brand, celebrity and sport personality – how do these kind of standards play out there? Case in point: Tiger Woods and Nike.

When we see Mr Woods teeing up at the PGA Tour do we question that the Nike cap he chooses to wear is there for any other reason than advertising? No. Of course not. It’s an expectation. Something that we, as the viewing public, have grown to accept within this particular industry. It’s a given that this happens. However, it’s also assumed that – given his high profile nature – that this sponsorship must have happened. Why else would he be wearing the logo? And of course, there is no doubt that Nike put out a press release when this sponsorship was made – but how long ago was that? Shouldn’t he be adding the the word ‘ad’ onto that hat? No, of course not. That’d be silly.

But if he tweets something about Nike, will be have to append it with ‘ad’ ?

It doesn’t make sense.

Yes of course I agree that we should ultimately make it explicit that a piece of content created in the name of advertising is in fact an ad, but why not have something on our website/homepage/bio that states this is the case? Better yet, exactly how are paid endorsements going to be handled moving forward? Social media are fundamentally different, but a sponsorship deal is a sponsorship deal. Be it product placement in movies (and games), Nike on Tiger Woods…. or bloggers being sponsored by a brand  to write about products, it’s the same rules – right?

So HOW can we expect to retrofit one solution across them all? We can’t.

Everything that’s been written about social media has defined how different they are from the rest of the media types that have come before it. Here we are at the turn of a new decade (yes we are) and now suddenly the ‘free world’ of the internet is being regulated like it’s a piece of out of home.

New rules are required. Ones that are built on customer smarts, not crafted out of the remnants of out of date thinking.

So now what?


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Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x