The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (the “ASAI”) has published an updated Code of Standards for Advertising (the “Code”) which will come into effect on 1 March 2016. The 7th edition of the Code amends and updates the standards for advertising in Ireland and will introduce some significant changes, both to generally applicable advertising rules and to industry specific requirements.

The ASAI is the advertising industry’s self-regulatory body. It aims to maintain standards in Irish commercial advertising through monitoring compliance with the Code, investigating complaints and if necessary, recommending that noncompliant marketing communications be amended or withdrawn.

The 7th edition of the Code contains numerous and wide ranging changes. The updates to the ‘General Rules’ which govern the overall application of the Code to commercial advertising are likely to be of broadest interest to Irish advertisers. Such changes include:

  • the inclusion of a specific statement that advertisers cannot disclaim responsibility for advertising created by agents or third parties on their behalf, whether directly or indirectly;
  • clarification that the ASAI will adjudicate any complaints on the basis of the likely effect on consumers, rather than on the basis of the advertiser’s intention; and briefing
  • the inclusion of (i) a requirement for advertisements to be clearly identified and distinguished from editorial matter; and (ii) a prohibition on the presentation of marketing communications as user generated content, private blogs or independent reviews.

Other noteworthy changes to the Code include (i) the introduction of a dedicated complaints procedure in respect of online behavioral advertising; (ii) new provisions dealing with advertising of gambling and electronic cigarettes; and (iii) substantial changes to the ‘Distance Selling’, ‘Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages’ and ‘Health and Beauty’ sections to reflect changes in EU regulations.

It will be important for businesses advertising in Ireland and Irish media channels to familiarise themselves with the myriad of changes to the Code prior to its entry into force, to ensure that any advertising in Ireland after 1 March 2016 is compliant with the Code and minimise the risk of a complaint to the ASAI and the related negative publicity which might result from an adverse finding by the ASAI.