FAQs: Understanding the Online Advertising Programme consultation

Posted on: Monday 25 April 2022 | IAB UK

What is the Online Advertising Programme? And what happens now the consultation has closed? We answer key questions about the OAP

Updated on 15 June 2022  

What is the Online Advertising Programme? 

The Online Advertising Programme (OAP) has been set up by the Government to review the regulatory framework of paid-for online advertising and consider how it can build on existing and emerging aspects of the self-regulatory framework. As the Government says, it aims to “equip our regulators to meet the challenges of the online sphere”. The OAP puts forward proposals that are intended to address both ‘illegal and legal harm’s created by online advertising and include measures aimed at advertisers, intermediaries, platforms and publishers.


Why is there a consultation on the OAP? 

In March 2022, the Government launched a consultation on the OAP, running for 12 weeks until 1 June 2022. On 27 May, this was extended by a week until Wednesday 8 June 2022. 

The aim of the consultation is to collate feedback from all interested stakeholders, including industry, on its proposals for  evolving and strengthening the existing regulatory framework. The consultation sets out various options and different measures that could be implemented and invites views on them. In short, the consultation is an opportunity for businesses working within the digital advertising supply chain to have their say and share expertise. 


What could the outcome of the OAP consultation be? 

It’s very hard to predict what the outcome of the OAP will be as the Government is, at this stage, focused on getting feedback to the consultation before formulating further plans. However, the very fact that the consultation contains a wide  range of potential changes to the current regulatory framework  indicates that there will be some developments - it is highly unlikely that everything will stay the same. 

While this is an oversimplification of a complex area, there are three possible broad outcomes on the table: continuing with the current self-regulatory approach, potentially incorporating the principles being piloted this year; a co-regulatory arrangement that would see a statutory regulator introduced as a backstop to some or all parts of the advertising rules; and a full statutory approach that would see a statutory regulator given rule-making, sanctioning and information-gathering powers. The eventual outcome of this process could be a mix of these three eventualities - with some aspects of regulation seeing no or limited changes and others potentially changing considerably. 


What does the IAB think & has it responded to the consultation? 

As we said when the consultation launched, we welcome the opportunity to contribute to the development of a future regulatory framework through an evidence-led process that builds on the strong industry standards and initiatives already in place. The OAP stands to affect all areas of the digital ad industry and it’s critical that the process draws on industry expertise to develop effective regulation, with the aim of creating  a coherent and streamlined regulatory landscape - so your input is vital.

We have submitted a response to the consultation, which you can read here. We worked with members of our Regulatory Affairs & Public Policy Group to shape this response. 


What happens now that the consultation has closed? 

Although the consultation has now closed, this is just the very start of the process for the OAP. The Government will now review the responses it has received to the consultation and current expectations are that DCMS will make an initial statement in the autumn that indicates the Government’s direction of travel. 

At the IAB, we will be continuing to engage with policy makers to ensure that they are receiving and considering industry’s view that an evidence-led and proportionate response - with targeted action to address specific areas of harm - is the most effective route to take. 


What should you be doing now? 

Beyond the consultation, it’s crucial that companies across the digital advertising supply chain are engaging with the Government on the OAP. Whether you submitted a response to the consultation or not, it’s not too late to get involved. It’s essential that DCMS hears from all parts of the digital advertising supply chain in order to give a true picture of what is already being done by the industry to address harms and how possible changes could impact different areas. If you are an IAB member, please get in touch with us for support on how you can get involved. 

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