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.

Advertising to Children


Advertising to children and the influence of advertising on children are high on the political agenda in the UK and globally; they are equally high on advertisers' agendas. 

ISBA and our sister bodies in the advertising industry take these challenges and responsibilities very seriously. Advertising codes, here and globally, reflect the need to provide higher levels of protection for children. Our codes provide this protection, defining children as under 16. 

View both the broadcast (BCAP) and non-broadcast (CAP) codes below: 

  BCAP Code    CAP Code 

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.

GDPR Fines 

EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): €20 Million Euro Fine For Non - Compliance

The GDPR comes into force throughout the EU in May 2018, Companies must comply by then in order to trade with the EU single market.

In the UK the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is responsible for implementing the Regulation and will be publishing Guidance on specific issues. Companies that haven’t complied could potentially be fined up to 4% of their annual global turnover or €20 million.

ISBA believes that providing transparency for online advertising is a key element of the Regulation. By promoting transparency and respecting privacy advertisers will build trust among customers. This can only have a positive effect in encouraging consumers to share their data.

ICO Guidance, especially ‘Preparing for the GDPR’ is essential reading and ISBA recommends that advertisers should regularly access the ICO website.

ISBA’s GDPR: Consent seminar, which takes place on 20 October 2017, has been designed to highlight how leading organisations such as GroupM, AppNexus and The Exchange Lab are preparing to comply with the regulation. Find out more 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, having taken 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 Government Responsibility Deals and Business4Life. We remain open to collaborative work with government and with health and other groups. Advertising is not the main cause of the growing problems of overweight and obesity, but can play a significant role in tackling the causes.

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; the new rules were announced in December 2016 and come into force on 1st July 2017.  As a result of ISBA guidance the TV ban on advertising HFSS foods and drinks to children will apply to all media - from posters to newsprint to the whole digital environment. 


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.

Public Affairs watchouts for 2017