The first thing to note is that in general digital advertising is subject to the same controls applicable to offline advertising. It is also no surprise that the use of online advertisements has increased over the years. The House of Lords’ 2018 report titled, ‘UK advertising in a digital age’ stated that digital advertising amounted to over half of all advertising for the first time in the UK in 2017.
There are several formats to digital advertising, including paid for search which is when an advertiser pays to have their details shown at the top of a search results page or prominently included elsewhere on the page. Display adverts could be in the form of an online video which emerges before you watch a YouTube video. Display adverts could also be shown as a banner or standard prominently displayed across the top of a screen, in a sidebar, or an overly advert that pops up on screen and must be clicked to close. Native adverts can appear to be recommendations by the publisher, or appear to be search results, or be influencer marketing on social media. Classified advertising is advertising on an online marketplace/directory like Auto Trader or Rightmove. It has been noted that the biggest increase in spend has been on adverts that target mobile phone users often using video format.
The Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) 1 July 2020 report titled ‘Online platforms and digital advertising’ estimated paid for search advertising totalled about £7.3 billion in 2019, more than 90% of it was earned by Google. Display advertising reached £5.5 billion, more than half went to Facebook. The CMA’s Digital Market Strategy is looking at the effects of dominance in online advertising. European Union competition authorities have fined Google for abusing its dominance. The CMA’s 1 July report has given six recommendations to unlock competition in digital markets.
One area to be aware of is social influencer and other native advertising. Often these adverts blur the line between and advert and the publishers’ own content. CMA guidance has said that whenever an influencer has been paid (including with a free product or loan of a product) the commercial relationship must be disclosed to comply with The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPUT). An influencer that receives a payment must make it clear they have been paid, given, or loaned something. They must disclose any relationships with brands over the previous year. They Must not give the impression that they are just a consumer and they must use appropriate signposting such as, ‘Advertisement Feature’, ‘Advertisement Promotion’ or #Advert. Instagram contains a ‘Paid Partnership’ tool which should be used in addition to hashtags. The CMA can enforce the CPUT. In some cases, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) can enforce the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct and Promotional Marketing (CAP Code).
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