Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

1. Who is behind ICAS?

Initially set up by EASA in 2008, ICAS is a global platform of Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs). Its members are national SROs, regional SRO associations and international industry associations representing advertisers, the media, and creative agencies.

ICAS is financed by members’ annual contributions.

2. What does self-regulation mean?

Self-regulation is a system for enforcing standards managed by representatives of a given industry or sector. It does not replace regulation but complements it by providing an additional layer of consumer protection. It is especially helpful to address issues on which it is difficult to legislate.

A self-regulatory system usually contains at least three elements:

  • Standards governing the content of advertisements;
  • A system for adopting and reviewing the Standards;
  • An independent and impartial body responsible for ensuring compliance of individual ads with the standards.

Find out more about how Self-Regulation works.

3. What is considered a non-compliant ad?

There is no universal definition of a “non-compliant” ad because advertising standards differ from country to country. This is unavoidable because standards, like ads themselves, must take into account local factors such as cultural and legal traditions.

There are however some general principles which are common to most markets. An advertisement should be:

  • legal: It should not breach existing laws and regulations;
  • honest: It should not be framed in such a way as to abuse the trust of consumers or exploit their lack of experience or knowledge;
  • truthful: It should not be ambiguous or mislead the consumer in any way, for example by omitting important information or by exaggerating some characteristics of a product or service;
  • decent: It should not offend standards of decency prevailing in the local country and culture.

More generally, ads should be socially responsible and respect human dignity. They should not incite or condone any form of discrimination.

Find out more about advertising standards

4. What does ICAS do?

In addition to providing various services to its members, ICAS undertakes activities of general interest to the advertising eco-system such as the development of educational tools on advertising self-regulation, the collection of data on Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs), the publication of special reports and the organization of events.

Subscribe to ICAS News or follow us on social media to find out more about ICAS activities.

5. Who benefits from self-regulation?

Consumers benefit from self-regulation because they can obtain a cheap (typically cost-free), fast and efficient solution to handle their complaints about ads.

Regulators benefit from self-regulation because they can focus on those ads which are in breach of the Law, while complaints on the appropriateness of ads can be handled swiftly by the local SRO at no cost to the taxpayer. self-regulation also supports legal compliance, for instance through copy advice services which allow ads to be checked against the applicable Standards prior to their public release.

Marketers benefit from self-regulation because responsible advertising helps build consumer trust in brands, which in turn builds brand loyalty and increases sales. Advertising Standards also support fair competition by ensuring that everyone plays by the same rules.

6. Is self-regulation not just a way for the industry to avoid regulation?

Self-regulation does not go against regulation, it complements it.

Here are some common misconceptions about self-regulation:

  • “Self-regulation is just a way for the industry to avoid regulation”: Self-Regulation cannot fully replace regulation but it can be very helpful to address certain issues on which it is difficult to legislate, such as ads causing offense or using stereotypes in a way that can be harmful to consumers.
  • “Self-regulation does not work because you cannot be judge and party”: Although Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) are primarily funded by the advertising industry, they operate in full independence. There are several safeguards in place to ensure that complaints on individual ads are handled by an independent and impartial Jury or Committee, and decisions are usually made publicly available to ensure maximum transparency.
  • “The industry supports self-regulation because it saves them the cost of expensive lawsuits”: One objective of self-regulation is indeed to provide a cost-efficient mechanism to handle complaints on ads. But advertisers which do not respect the law or advertising standards are still subject to financial losses, e.g. if the local SRO requests them to withdraw their ad, or if they lose a case in Court.
  • “Self-regulatory bodies are more lenient than Courts”: SROs can request amendments to individual ads or apply sanctions where the standards are not complied with. Such decisions are publicly available and offer consumers with speedy redress compared to the time it takes to bring a case to Court. Moreover, self-regulation does not prevent consumers from going to Court if they think that an ad is in breach of the Law.
7. What is the ICC Code?

The ICC Marketing Code is often considered as the “gold standard” for advertising self-regulation. It was introduced by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in 1937 and has been updated several times since then to reflect changes in legal and business practices, as well as the emergence of new technologies. The ICC Code serves as the cornerstone for many national and regional Codes.

This high-level Code is complemented by various sectoral guidelines on issues such as Environmental Marketing or Online Behavioral Advertising (OBA).

You can find out more about the ICC Code on the ICC website.

8. How many Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) are there worldwide? Is there one in my country?

Today, there are around 50 Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) in the world, but many markets are in the process of developing their own self-regulatory system. More than half of existing SROs are represented in ICAS, either as direct members or indirectly through the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA).

You can find out more about existing SROs on the ICAS members’ page and on the interactive map of ICAS members.

9. As a consumer, how can I submit a complaint about an ad?

ICAS does not handle complaints on individual ads. To submit a complaint, you need to contact your local Self-Regulatory Organization, even if the advertisement in question comes from a source outside of your country.

Complaints typically need to include the following details to be processed:

  • A description – or, where possible, a copy – of the ad (e.g. picture, recording…);
  • Details about the source, such as the name of the radio on which the ad was broadcast, the TV channel, newspaper, website, etc.;
  • The date and time when you saw the ad;
  • A description of what has offended you.

Please note that your local SRO may also require further details.

You can find out more about existing SROs on the ICAS members’ page and on the interactive map of ICAS members.

10. How can I get involved in ICAS?

ICAS members include the following types of organizations active in the advertising, media and/or marketing communication sector:

  • Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs)
  • Associations of SROs
  • Industry associations

Joining ICAS entails several benefits, including knowledge-sharing, business intelligence and networking opportunities.

If you are not eligible for membership, you can follow our activities by subscribing to ICAS News and/or by following us on social media.

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