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Video-on-demand providers must avoid inappropriate placement of ads, says CAP

Video-on-demand (VOD) service providers should have a due diligence checking procedure to prevent inappropriately placed advertisements appearing when programmes are accessed by consumers, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has said.

CAP, which together with the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP) writes the rules governing UK advertising, said such a process is necessary for VOD providers to have to ensure they comply with UK advertising rules.

"As programming can be watched at any time, there is a risk that the placement of ads featuring certain themes might cause harm to children, serious or widespread offence to audiences in general, or be social irresponsible," CAP said in a statement.

In new guidance it has issued on ad placement in VOD programmes (9-page / 153KB PDF), CAP suggested VOD providers deploy "timing restrictions" on adverts shown when consumers access their on-demand programme, similar to those used in traditional TV programming. This could help providers avoid causing "serious or widespread offence", it said.

Matching types of advertising to the types of content shown in on-demand programmes is another measure that could be used, and access controls could also ensure that adverts with "particularly strong themes, such as sexual or violent content" are not accessible by children, it said.

However, CAP said: "Providers should be aware that placement approaches and restrictions have their limits and will not be sufficient to mitigate certain issues. Advertising that is socially irresponsible because it, for instance, encourages people to break the law, is unlikely to be acceptable in any context. Similarly, an offensive depiction on the basis of race, gender or disability is unlikely to be acceptable."

CAP said that particular difficulties with advertising with VOD programmes occur where the content of those programmes is of "general appeal". It said VOD providers should use "audience data" or other evidence to show that any potentially non-compliant ads that are shown alongside these kinds of programmes were in fact targeted at an appropriate audience.

"Although each advertisement must be assessed on a case-by-case basis, on-demand service providers are not required to treat every potential issue in the same way. It is for on-demand service providers to take appropriate steps to ensure that advertisements are placed around programming content that is appropriate," it said.

The CAP Code applies to advertising in print on posters, in emails, text messages and in paid-for-space online, such as banner and pop-up ads or keyword advertising on search engines, as well as company websites and non-paid-for space online under the advertiser's control, such as social networking pages.

The CAP Code contains rules that advertisers, generally, have to adhere to and prohibits firms from making misleading claims or causing harm or offence to the public subjected to their promotions, among other things. However, a section contained in an appendix to the main CAP Code rules outlines separate rules to which adverts delivered via on-demand services are subject.

CAP previously issued guidance clarifying that VOD providers are responsible for ensuring that all advertising triggered by users' programme selections adhere to UK advertising rules, regardless of whether the adverts are themselves audiovisual in form. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) oversees compliance with the CAP Code.

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