Advertising self-regulatory organisations have been helping protect consumers from irresponsible advertising for decades.

Advertising self-regulatory organisations (SROs) – also referred to as advertising standard bodies – are independent entities (i.e. independent of government and of specific interest groups) with decision-making powers that have the responsibility of enforcing national advertising standards and rules, and ensuring that ads are legal, decent, honest, and truthful. They cover all advertising content appearing across all types of media against the highest standards, that go well beyond legal requirements. They are funded by the advertising industry, directly via membership fees or indirectly via a levy on ad spending. Some of them have been running for over 70 years!

By developing standards

Self-regulatory organisations serve as platforms that unite the entire advertising ecosystem to define advertising standards and embed them into national self-regulatory codes.

And enforcing them

Self-regulatory organisations provide the other key component of effective self-regulation; enforcement of the rules.

In this respect, various tools are used by SROs to help ensure compliance. First, SROs offer training to ensure marketers are aware of the rules during the inception process all the way from the brief to the creative execution. Then, through voluntary or mandatory compliance checks against the provisions of the code, SROs also provide an outlook of the compliance level for a particular sector. SROs also service the industry with ‘copy advice’ and ‘pre-clearance’, which are carried out before the advertising is made available to consumers and the general public. Then, as a last resort, SROs’ juries impartially handle consumer complaints cost-free and can resolve disputes lodged as competitor complaints. SRO decision-making processes and adjudications are:

  • transparent, with juries motivating their rulings based on specific rules and by taking into account both parties’ views and the underlying societal debates that may impact the audience’s perception of a particular ad,
  • independent, as the juries or complaints committees are composed of academic experts, marketing professionals, and sometimes even third-party consumers to have an impartial view of an ad;
  • quick, with 84% of complaints handled within one month.

Respecting strict operational standards

To ensure that EASA’s network of 28 SROs in 26 European countries, the Alliance has established a Charter on the principles for self-regulation to which all its members have signed up, and developed guidance, named Best Practice Recommendations (BPRs) to help SROs reach the high operational standards across the Single Market and beyond. EASA has issued 14 BPRs, ranging from recommendations on the Jury Composition, Code Drafting and Consultation, to consolidating their remit over online advertising and influencer marketing. More information can be found on this page.