The industry’s view of the Online Advertising Programme

Posted on: Tuesday 08 March 2022 | IAB UK

With DCMS’s consultation on the Online Advertising Programme expected soon, we’re sharing our view on how the regulatory framework for digital advertising can be developed


Please note: this article was published before the Online Advertising Programme launched. Read our OAP FAQs here

Ahead of the consultation on the Government’s Online Advertising Programme (OAP), we want to take the opportunity to lay out our and our members’ view of how the regulatory framework for digital advertising can be developed, building on and complementing the comprehensive system of self-regulation that is already in place.

To this end, we have worked with our members to develop some key principles for the OAP to ensure that the future regulatory framework is proportionate, targeted, and effective. For our members across the online advertising ecosystem, the five key principles that we believe the OAP proposals should meet, and which we would ask government to use to guide its policy development, are:

  1. Recognition of and support for the value of the ad-funded business model and its crucial role in the digital economy: The UK’s digital advertising industry is world-leading and the biggest in Europe. It drives e-commerce, helps fund technological innovation across the economy, enables free access to content and services and supports business growth from big brands to SMEs. It’s important this value is recognised as the OAP is developed, both in terms of continuing to drive responsible and sustainable growth, and in understanding why it is critical to ensure that regulation is well-designed and is proportionate to the harms it is seeking to address.
  2. Recognition of the place of self-regulatory mechanisms and open standards in any new framework: From the ASA to IAB Tech Lab, there is already a range of self-regulatory mechanisms and open standards initiatives in place that are designed to directly protect consumers and to indirectly contribute to consumer trust in digital advertising. It’s crucial that existing self-regulation and standards are taken into account and complemented by any new regulatory framework being developed. 
  3. A clear vision that brings coherence and alignment to all relevant policy and regulatory workstreams, aligned with the Digital Regulation Plan: For the OAP to be effective, it must align other relevant ongoing regulatory policy workstreams around a clear vision that is aligned towards the same policy goals, and present a coherent overall plan for regulating and supporting the online advertising sector in line with the Government’s economic goals for the digital sector and the Digital Regulation Plan. Collaborating with and drawing on expertise from industry is vital for designing a clear and coherent overarching framework that looks forward, not back.
  4. An evidence-based approach with robustly justified proposals: The OAP proposals should meet accepted principles of effective regulation. In its consultation, DCMS should robustly justify any proposed regulatory interventions based on clear evidence of the harms they are seeking to address, and how they will deliver specific, measurable outcomes. At the same time, government should recognise that a combination of regulatory tools and other solutions may be needed to address a single ‘harm’. We welcome the opportunity to support DCMS where we can in gathering the evidence that it needs throughout the course of this Programme. Where the necessary evidence does not exist, we are keen to work with DCMS to identify how it can be obtained.
  5. Emphasis on cooperation between industry, law enforcement and regulators to target criminal actors: Our industry shares the Government’s goal to protect consumers and foster innovation to fully realise the benefits of the digital economy. Where the evidence shows that a particular harm is perpetrated by bad actors, the Government should work with the relevant representatives of industry, law enforcement and regulators to design an effective approach.

To sum up, the OAP represents an opportunity for the Government to work with industry to design and develop a modern, digital-first regulatory framework that supplements the existing system of self-regulation and targets the bad actors that look to use advertising as a vector to commit crime and cause harm. We believe a partnership approach is needed from this point forward between the government and all actors in the digital advertising ecosystem, whose collective action is needed to deliver shared outcomes and evolve and maintain good practice within the industry.

We have sent a version of these principles to DCMS ahead of its consultation on the Online Advertising Programme.

Written by

IAB UK

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