We recently devoted part of the Marketing Review Radio show to the CAP and BCAP Codes. Not sure what these are? Read on

The CAP and BCAP Codes are the UK’s advertising rules for agencies, advertisers and media owners. CAP stands for Committee of Advertising Practice and BCAP is the Broadcasting equivalent. BACP covers on TV, Radio and online advertisements and the CAP Code covers everything else including online banner ads, paid for search listings, email, text messages, brochures, catalogues, posters and so on. Both codes are designed to ensure that marketing communications are legal, decent, honest and truthful. The Codes are policed by the Advertising Standard Authority (ASA). The Codes are similar but BCAP includes concerns about the scheduling of broadcast advertisements, such as making sure that advertisement for adult products (such as alcohol) are not broadcast when children are likely to see them.

General rules include:

  • marketing communications must be clearly identified as marketing (this is has caused problems with paid-for tweets not being clearly marketing)
  • marketing communications must not cause serious or wide-spread offence. Note you can shock people or offend a small group of people, the rule is not to cause widespread offence. An example is the 2014 TV and cinema advertisements for Booking.com.  Complainers argued the ads were offensive because the word ‘booking’ was used to indicate a swear word. Despite receiving over 2,000 complaints, the ASA decided the advertisements were light-hearted, did not condone swearing or cause wide-spread offence.

Advertising to children is a highly contensious issue. The Codes define children  as those under the age of 16. The Codes state that children should be shown in unsafe situations, such as talking to strangers or cycling without a cycle helment, unless the advertisement is to encourage public safety. Children must not be put under undue pressure to buy a product or demand someone else buys it for them, by suggesting a child will be unpopular or excluded if they do not possess a product. You can however show children playing with a product with friends.

More detail at CAP.org.uk, or the Cambridge Marketing Handbook: Law or listen to the radio show.