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What is the ASA?

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is the UK’s independent watchdog responsible for ensuring ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful. We respond to concerns about ads, taking quick and effective action against those that break the rules.

We judge ads against the Advertising Codes (written by the Committee of Advertising Practice). These rules require advertisers to prepare ads responsibly and to ensure their advertising doesn’t mislead, harm or offend. The Codes apply to advertising across all media, including: TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, websites, posters, mailings, mobiles, texts and e-mails. 

Protecting children

The protection of children sits at the heart of our work and the Advertising Codes. We’re committed to making sure ads targeted at or likely to be seen by children don’t contain anything that is inappropriate or harmful. 

For the purposes of the Codes, a child is someone under 16, but there are further rules in place, such as scheduling restrictions, that are designed to protect younger children.

Key rules state that:

  • Ads addressed to, targeted directly at or featuring children must contain nothing that is likely to result in their physical, mental or moral harm.
  • Ads that are suitable for older children but could distress younger children must be sensitively scheduled. 
  • Ads must not portray or represent children in a sexual way.
  • Advertisers must not knowingly collect from children under 12 personal information about those children for marketing purposes without first obtaining the consent of the child’s parent or guardian.
  • Trailers for films or videos carrying an 18-certificate or 15-certificate may not be advertised in or adjacent to programmes commissioned for, principally directed at or likely to appeal particularly to audiences below the age of 16.

 The Codes also contain an over-arching social responsibility rule that applies to all ads.

Valuing your feedback

The vast majority of advertising in the UK is responsible but advertisers do, of course, sometimes get it wrong. The public plays a hugely important role in alerting us to ads that are potentially problematic. Your views and opinions are crucial in helping inform our decision-making. 

Although not every complaint will result in an ad being banned, we take all concerns we receive seriously and will write back to you explaining if and why we don’t agree with the point you have raised.  

If you have seen an ad that you believe is misleading, harmful or offensive you can lodge a complaint with us via ParentPort’s complaints section. 

Click here to Make a Complaint.

If you don’t have a specific complaint but would like to express your views, for example about advertising more generally, or you’d like to comment on our work, then please get in touch. You can do that in ParentPort’s Have Your Say section.

As well as responding to complaints, we also conduct surveys to monitor whether advertisers are sticking to the rules. Where they aren’t, we take immediate action. 

Investigating complaints

Just one complaint can lead to an ad being investigated and banned and we’ve made sure the complaints procedure is as quick and easy as possible. 

Our rulings are made by the ASA Council, the jury that decides whether ads have breached the Codes. When complaints are formally investigated, we will publish our decision on our website. 

An ‘upheld’ decision means that the ad has to be amended or withdrawn. That can be costly for the advertiser and our published decision often results in bad press too, which can cause substantial reputational damage. Publishing our decisions also sends a clear signal to advertisers about what is and isn’t acceptable.

Want to find out more?

Our comprehensive website provides further details about who we are and how we regulate advertising in the UK. 

You can also keep up-to-date with our rulings and news stories by signing up to receive news alerts.

The Committee of Advertising Practice periodically conduct public consultations on various parts of the Advertising Codes. Make sure you have your say on how the rules are shaped. Sign up to receive alerts when consultations are published.