This is an article that I originally wrote for the UK marketing journal As such it seems a little out of place on E2 because it is Anglo-Centric and referres to a very small part of the online marketing industry. Anyway, I thaught I would chuck it into the memepool to see what happens. Enjoy:

The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has set itself a difficult task. It aims to raise consumer confidence in Internet advertising with the launch of a self-regulatory code of practice and new Admark icon for advertisers to display as a quality kitemark.

It is worth mentioning that the rise in complaints against online advertising is in one way a signal that the Internet is maturing as a mainstream advertising medium. Nevertheless, a kitemark alone is unlikely to improve consumer confidence. Building consumer trust in the new "Admark" icon, particularly as other secure site symbols from Which? and Veri could cause clutter and confusion, is likely to prove difficult.

As many websites and banners viewed in the UK do not originate here, the new code will only be applicable to a small proportion of banners, e-mails and sites available to a typical "surfer".

CAP is trying to solve an international problem with a small national initiative. We may see the symptoms of the problem in the UK, but the cause is elsewhere. The vast majority of the UK advertising industry already consistently works to the highest standards.

Even if most of the UK online advertising industry were to agree to this code, it's unlikely that it would have any impact on the behaviour of the Internet's worst offenders. Operating in the seedier sectors of the Net are many companies that have been denied access to conventional media. They rely on "aggressive" marketing to recruit customers in high-churn markets. What do pornographers, virtual casinos, pirates and spam have to gain from adopting timid practices?

It's not hard to find bad online ads: Most of us have seen trick banners that are disguised as an error message, online ads that open up six pop-ups at once (the windows that pop-up as quickly as you try to pop them down). Users are plagued with "spam" mails that are usually bogus and often fraudulent. It's not surprising that consumers have little confidence in online advertising

However, regulation is not the answer. As the industry matures we'll find that the solution to this problem comes from within. Advances in interactive measurement can already prove that honest advertising is the best way to start profitable relationships.

The industry's gold-rush mentality is being replaced with a need for sustainable business. Advertisers and consumers are learning that an ongoing relationship and a reputable brand matters more now than ever before. The future for consumer confidence lies with strong brands building greater trust among their customers. Respected and well-established advertisers will be expected to uphold their own stringent advertising standards to remain as market leaders.

The international ad networks know this too: if they want to keep their own margins healthy they will need to take responsibility for high standards across all the ad content they carry.

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