IAB UK on the Government’s response to the OAP

Posted on Tuesday 25 July 2023

The Government has published its response to its consultation on the Online Advertising Programme - find out what it has said and read a response from our CEO Jon Mew

The Online Advertising Programme (OAP) was set up by the Government in 2022 to review the regulatory framework for paid-for online advertising and consider where and how to build on it to address both legal and illegal harms. Over a 13-week consultation period last summer, it gathered input from interested stakeholders - including our industry - on its proposals for evolving and strengthening the existing regulatory framework. You can read our consultation response here, which argued that the Government should take a targeted approach to addressing areas of high risk and called for policy makers to work with industry to achieve this. 

The Government has now issued its response to the consultation and outlined the next steps it plans to take. Overall, we consider the response to be positive and productive, taking on board important points about the need for proportionate, digital-first approaches that reflect the diversity of the ecosystem.  

It is also taking a targeted approach to focus on two specific areas (illegal advertising and protecting children) and it stresses that it will work with the industry to “identify evidence gaps, explore and potentially enhance existing industry-led initiatives, as well as consider if an industry-led approach could help address any gaps not already covered by these schemes”. This will be the remit of a new Taskforce - which IAB UK is part of – bringing together industry and Government to explore how non-legislative action can address illegal harms arising from online advertising and increase the protection of children.  

However, we are concerned that the Government is planning to pursue a legislative response at this stage before other regulatory approaches have been fully explored, at the same time as acknowledging that more work is needed to develop the evidence base to understand the scale and impact of illegal harms. This is essential to inform decisions about proportionate regulation. You can find our OAP FAQs here and please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions.  

IAB UK’s statement on the OAP Government’s response  

“Demonstrating the strength of existing industry-led regulation sat at the heart of IAB UK’s response to the Online Advertising Programme consultation and we are pleased that the Government has today recognised the valuable role this plays in protecting consumers and businesses. We have also consistently argued for the next phase of the OAP to concentrate on areas of highest risk and to facilitate joint working with industry to address these challenges. We therefore welcome the Government’s commitment to a collaborative, evidence-led approach – focused on protecting children and tackling illegal advertising – and we look forward to participating in the new Online Advertising Taskforce.      

“However, we remain concerned that the Government is prematurely pursuing a legislative response before it has fully explored other regulatory solutions. Our priority now is ensuring that any proposals are proportionate and justified in their nature, scale and scope. In parallel, there need to be renewed efforts from Government to enforce existing laws against illegal actors.”  

Jon Mew, CEO, IAB UK 

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