Media issues are a core part of ISBA’s work. Advertisers need to know about media developments and advertising costs and effectiveness whether in traditional media or in the digital environment. As the representative body for advertisers we are members of cross industry measurement, standards and advisory bodies. Our unique position has allowed us to ensure serious cost savings for advertisers, for example in the proposal and defence of Contract Rights Renewal (CRR) as it applies to ITV.


The responsible consumption of alcohol is widely enjoyed; part of that enjoyment is the choice of drinks and a healthy and competitive market between producers and outlets. Advertising plays and important part in both the responsible marketing and the provision of choice.


Automotive advertising has embraced the strict rules that are part of our self-regulation system, as well as those that come from the EU.


Advertising represents serious investment by car companies and serious investment by consumers in a major purchase.  Getting that advertising right is crucial.

ISBA’s automotive advertisers group brings together the wide experience of the sector as the focal point for informing ISBA’s policy on the advertising 

codes and wider commercial communications and media issues.



Children can not be subject to advertising in the same way that adults are. Our industry codes and company policies put in place special controls and restrictions that are part of a responsible advertisers DNA. Working with government and other interested groups is important to us.

Protecting Children in a commercial world 

Responsible advertising is at the heart of ISBA’s activities. Whilst we reject campaign group calls for a commercial free childhood we do strongly believe that advertisers have a special duty of responsibility when advertising to children. The UK Advertising Codes are a major contribution to protecting children and 

helping parents. For example pester power, now banned by the EU, has been prohibited in the UK for many years.

As the significance of digital media grows, not least for children’s access to content, it becomes ever more important for advertisers, parents and government to work together to equip children and families with the knowledge of how to avoid undesirable content.

With the AA we made inputs to the Buckingham Review and the Bailey Review of the commercialisation and sexualisation of childhood. The advertising industry set up the Children’s Panel at the Advertising Association to review practices and advise the industry about our codes. Advertisers, supported by industry bodies have signed the Children's Pledge not to use Brand Ambassadors or Peer-to-Peer marketing with children. The ASA have also set up the ParentPort website in response to the Review

ISBA is a member of the Responsible Advertising and Children Programme, a cross industry group brought together in Brussels and the USA by the World Federation of Advertisers. For advice about the EU Food Pledge visit the food advertising pages.

Advice and education 

ISBA and the Department for Education co-authored Working with Schools - best practice principles which aims to guide schools and business on the need for great care when allowing messages into schools. The key message is that the educational benefits must outweigh the business ones.

A similar set of guidance is provided with ISBA support by Consumer Focus Scotland, together with more joint guidance on Commercial Sponsorship in the Public Sector.

More help for advertisers working in schools is provided by the Media Smart project. Detailed lesson plans and audio visual material is available for teachers to help primary school children understand advertising and the purpose of these commercial messages. The digital lessons are also available for schools as are the resources for social media Media smart has also provided material for schools and parents about Body Image which will be published this summer. In Feb 2014 Media Smart launched an animated talking piece for parents to view with their children explaining issues online.

Industry best practice and links to the rules on advertising to children can also be found at the CHECK website, hosted by the Advertising Association.

Data issues

Data protection rules have a fundamental impact on commercial communications. The EU laws are strict, especially where children's data is concerned. The EU Commission is planning a revision of the rules in 2012.

Data issues - a key concern for advertisers

Below are the latest data issues affecting advertisers. More details are available for members by clicking on the appropriate links.

Alternatively, members may go direct to the Data Issues Members' Page here.


Financial services play an important part in the way we live, work and relax. Banking, insurance and pensions represent significant decisions for us all. Advertising plays a part in those decisions and we recognise the need to get those messages right.


There are advantages and disadvantages to the government administering the detailed rules that come from Brussels. However on balance ISBA believes that all the advertising regulation would be more effective if they lived at the self-regulatory system at ASA/CAP, with experienced staff able to provide consistent advice and adjudications. 

Disclaimers in advertising

The first aim of advertising regulation must be to protect consumers. There is a tendency for legislators to believe that consumer protection is achieved by compulsory ‘small print’ in ads. ISBA recognises that there is an important role for laying down essential information. However we also know that small print, disclaimers and legalese is mistrusted by the very consumers it seeks to protect. Sometimes the disclaimers are also the subject to public ridicule. Financial service advertising is particularly surrounded by the need to add qualifying statements; we believe the nature of the warnings, the inflexibility of the word requirements, and sometimes the need for them should be comprehensively reviewed.

Financial Conduct Authority

The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) regulates financial services, taking over from the Financial Standard Authority (FSA). Companies who offering credit cards, hire purchase, debt management, payday loans or advice are registered with the FCA. The FCA has brought out guidelines for all businesses to follow which can be found here

This also impacts on the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in how it deals complaints and credit ads, making sure the content is socially responsible. Given the volume of complaints submitted to the ASA over the year, CAP have published an AdviceOnline entry to make sure marketers can adhere to rules. Click here to view them.


Food & Soft Drink Advertising combines increasing NGO attention, negative campaigning, regulatory creep with some highly technical rules. ISBA plays a key role in getting the ad environment right.

How we work 

Our food and soft drinks members come together in our Food and Drink Advertisers working group to tackle specific issues.  It is this group that is the advertiser's starting point for any rule changes that eventually arrive at CAP and BCAP. ISBA is the advertiser’s voice on both committees of advertising practice as well as key members of the ICC Advertising & Marketing Commission – the owners of the global ad codes. The AA based Food Advertising Unit (FAU) brings together advertisers, media and agencies.

We work closely with the Food & Drink Federation and the British Soft Drinks Association on all issues but especially on food content and labelling issues where they naturally take the lead.

EU and global issues are the focus of ISBA’s membership and active involvement in the World Federation of Advertisers and the ICC.  Through them contact is maintained with the EU institutions and the WHO.


ISBA supported the Government’s Responsibility Deals, and Business4Life. We are particularly open to collaborative work with government and with health and other groups. the issues around food and obesity are serious for society; advertisers are keen to play their part. Members keep the current codes under review and help revise and amend the rules; in 2015 ISBA asked CAP to review the food advertising rules and assess the practicality of adopting the Broadcast code use of nutrient profiling and more restrictive rules for HFSS products.  A CAP consultation paper was published in May 2016; depending on the responses CAP believes it possible for the ASA to implement the new rules by the end of 2016.


Understanding the legal background to advertising and all forms of commercial communications is crucial for advertisers. New laws can significantly change the way media operates and the content of ads.

ISBA is actively engaged with the UK and devolved governments and parliaments, the EU and international bodies to help achieve a regulatory structure that works for society as a whole.

Maintaining and supporting the effectiveness of the self-regulatory advertising system in the UK is a key ISBA objective. ISBA is the advertiser’s representative on the CAP and BCAP committees and on the funding body – ASBOF.

However our UK rules are not simply about self-regulation. They work at two levels; first on matters of taste and decency they are self-regulatory; on matter of misleadingness they reflect the UK and EU law. The ASA/CAP system is recognised as the ‘established means’ by the government in implementing and enforcing the law.  The Consumer Protection law is also enforceable by local government Trading Standards they would however expect the advertising system to have worked first.  When faced with a regulatory concern the first place to check with is the Codes of Practice. These implement UK and EU law, if in doubt check out the legal position.

Self Regulation

There are some serious benefits of self-regulation over and above State law making. For the consumer it is an independent, speedy and free means to get something put right.  Where there are no systems of self-regulation there is no alternative to using the courts. This can be both expensive and can take a great deal of time.
It is also possible to keep the rules up to date without the need to go though the detailed and time consuming process of drafting and passing new laws in Westminster or Brussels.
For more details about how it works for us in the UK and globally have a look at the Self-regulation tab.


Self-regulation is the alternative to State laws or a free for all. Advertisers are committed to our ASA/CAP system with a strong independent adjudicator and rules that protect consumers.


In their own words ...

“The ASA is the UK's independent regulator of advertising across all media, including marketing on websites. We work to ensure ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful by applying the Advertising Codes”

ISBA’s special role

ISBA is the advertiser’s sole representative in the self-regulatory system.  We are directors of the Committee of Advertising Practice and the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP & BCAP); in this role we act to ensure the system and the codes are effective for all concerned, including detailed work in the drafting of the rules.  We are also a board member of the funding bodies (ASBOF and BASBOF) that receive the levy payments and hold the ASA to account financially.


The ASA was formed in 1966 through the active work of ISBA and the other bodies that make up the Advertising Association membership. It followed strong pressure from the then government demanding restrictive laws on advertising. In 2002 ISBA campaigned to have the work done through the non broadcast advertising code (CAP) extended by taking on the regulation of TV and radio advertising that had been the responsibility of the state regulators, ITC and Radio Authority.  This was successful with the birth of the BCAP code, made possible by the passing of the Communications Act.

How it works

The codes are written and owned by the advertising industry – CAP and BCAP.  However the committees are advised by staff from the wider ASA team; the codes are also subject to the advice of the TSI and the Government for CAP and Ofcom for BCAP.  The BCAP code needs Ofcom’s formal approval.

The ASA staff and Council investigate and adjudicate on advertisements, publishing their rulings and sending them to the media for taking down or refusal to publish.

Anyone can complain to the ASA about an ad; some complaints are from competitors; some investigations are the result of work done by the ASA without a complaint being made.

The system is funded by advertisers paying a levy on their media spending.  This is collected by the agencies and paid directly to ASBOF and BASBOF who redistribute it to the ASA on the basis of their annual budget.

Following an upheld complaint the media owners are notified that the advertisement should not be shown or used.  In some cases, for non broadcast, advertisers may also be required to obtain prior approval for future ads.  TV and radio ads are generally pre vetted by Clearcast for TV and the Radio Centre as a condition of the broadcasters licence.

When advertisers refuse to act on the rulings of the ASA Council other regulators may step in and enforce the law.  The OFT is currently the backstop power for non-broadcast advertising and Ofcom for TV and radio.  Trading standards officers are also empowered under the UK Consumer Protection Regulations.


There are some serious benefits of self-regulation over and above State law making. For the consumer it is an independent, speedy and free means to get something put right.  Where there are no systems of self-regulation there is no alternative to using the courts.  This can be both expensive and can take a great deal of time.

It is also possible to keep the rules up to date without the need to go though the detailed and time consuming process of drafting and passing new laws in Westminster or Brussels.

Things it cannot do

Self-regulation is effective in achieving a high level of consumer protection from misleading advertising and on issues of taste and decency but is no substitute for the law where illegal acts are being commissioned and citizens the victims of fraud etc.

Nor can the system provide financial recompense for the actions of advertisers.

EU action

The UK ASA is a member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance that brings together all the Self-regulatory Organisations (SROs) in the EU and wider together with representatives of the advertising industry.  The World Federation of advertisers represents IBSA. See for more details.


Global advertising rules

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) Marketing and Advertising Code is the global standard and mother code for most countries.  ISBA helped launch the code in 1939.  We are active members of the Marketing and Advertising Commission which regularly revises the code.  In the UK the ICC advertising committee is chaired by ISBA.  Visit the ICC at for a wider appreciation of the range and scope of the Commissions work.


Green and environmental claims, understanding the ever growing 'green speak' of the experts as well as being sustainable in the way business and advertising operates are serious challenges.

Green claims rules

ISBA was at the leading edge of the development of specific rules on green claims and environmental issues in marketing.  ISBA work led to the inclusion of Environmental Claims section of the CAP Code.  These rules were updated in 2010 for both the broadcast and non broadcast codes and the scope of the CAP code widened to include website content.
Sitting alongside the Codes of Advertising Practice are the government’s guidance.  These were updates by DEFRA with the involvement of ISBA and the advertising industry and campaign groups.  The Guidance should be consulted alongside the CAP and BCAP codes and are taken into account by the ASA Council in making adjudications on complaints.Defra Green Claims Guidance (Oct 2010)
The ICC global Advertising and Marketing Codes also includes advice on environmental claims.

Environmental rules

When making claims, especially comparative claims, it is important that we all understand the meaning of the terms used.  The problem is that for many terms there are conflicting definitions, some of which are fundamental campaigning issues. Over the past three years the European Commission has brought together a Working Group representing campaigners, business, goernemts and regulators to review the rules. ISBA was the WFA representative on the Group. This has fed into the EU 'refit' proposals for Consumer Law (UCPDirective) published in 2016.


ISBA Sustainable advertising group supports work on making commercial communications more sustainable through developing advice on procurement. For example the PAS 2020 standard for direct mail was supported, promoted and shared by the group. Similarly interest is shared in making sustainability a factor in the decision making in purchasing commercial communications.

Public Affairs watchouts for 2016