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    B865 - Advertising Research Bill 2015, The Rt. Hon. Actaeon MP
    Advertising Research Bill 2015


    A bill to introduce an accessible ratings system for research used in advertising.

    BE IT ENACTED by The Queen's most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, in accordance with the provisions of the Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949, and by the authority of the same, as follows: -


    1. Definitions
    (1) For the purposes of this bill, ‘research’ is defined as any consumer survey, opinion poll, clinical trial or scientific study producing verifiable data or conclusions.

    2. Creation of a body to oversee advertising research

    (1) An executive non-departmental government body named the Research Standards in Advertising Commission, henceforth referred to as the RSAC, will be created.
    (2) To be considered for appointment to the RSAC, a person must have a minimum of five years of experience working in the scientific research or polling sectors.
    (3) The RSAC will be funded by the Advertising Standards Board of Finance applying an additional 0.025% levy on the cost of buying advertising space.

    3. Advertising research quality ratings
    (1) Advertisers may request, free of charge, for research to be awarded a rating by the RSAC.
    (2) Three ratings are available: Green, Amber and Red.
    (a) A Green rating corresponds to a ‘good’ research technique; an Amber rating corresponds to an ‘acceptable’ research technique; and a Red rating corresponds to an ‘inadequate’ research technique.
    (b) The criteria for ratings as determined in § 5 of this bill must be reviewed at least once every five years by the RSAC.
    (3) Advertisers may appeal the RSAC’s ruling once by applying to the Advertising Standards Authority.

    4. Display of ratings in advertising
    (1) All advertisements containing research material must display the corresponding RSAC rating badge.
    (2) For advertising with a visual media component:
    (a) The rating badge must occupy no less than 10% of the area of the display medium;
    (b) The rating badge must be visible for no less than 5 seconds.
    (3) For advertising only using an audible media:
    (a) The rating must be stated once using the phrase, ‘The research and conclusions used in this advertisement have been found to be good/acceptable/inadequate.’

    5. Preliminary rating criteria
    (1) The RSAC will award ratings to research by considering the criteria outlined in this section.
    (2) If an advertisement matches one or more Red criteria it receives a Red rating. If the advertisement matches three or more Amber criteria it receives an Amber rating. Otherwise the advertisement receives a Green rating.
    (3) The Green criteria are:
    (a) Effectively randomised selection of participants;
    (b) Single-, double-, or triple-blind study where appropriate;
    (c) Conclusions shown to be statistically significant to an appropriate level;
    (d) Use of a placebo group where appropriate;
    (e) Use of a control group where appropriate;
    (4) The Amber criteria are:
    (a) Attempted randomisation of participants, but not necessarily using the most effective or thorough method;
    (b) Statistical significance of results is not necessarily demonstrated;
    (c) Failure to declare commercial interests;
    (d) Intentional—though accurate—misrepresentation of a study’s conclusions or data;
    (e) Size of study is small compared to other comparable research;
    (f) Failure to identify potential confounding variables;
    (g) Falsifying the qualifications or experience of researchers;
    (5) The Red criteria are:
    (a) Fabrication of any material involved in the study;
    (b) Plagiarism;
    (c) Failure to adequately respond to substantiated allegations of misconduct;
    (d) Non-randomised and deliberately biased selection of participants;
    (e) Use of deliberately biased or misleading research questions;
    (f) Failure to use a placebo or control group, where one is essential to make valid conclusions;
    (g) Failure to use a single-, double-, or triple-blind method where it is essential to make valid conclusions;
    (h) Failure to describe any of the experimental procedures to the RSAC in enough detail to allow a conclusion to be drawn.

    6. Enforcement
    (1) Any broadcaster running an advertisement that fails to meet the conditions outlined in § 4 of this bill is liable to be referred to Ofcom and have its licence to broadcast revoked.
    (2) Any advertiser running an advertisement in non-broadcast material that fails to meet the conditions outlined in § 4 of this bill is liable to a fine of up to £500,000.

    7. Commencement, Short Title, and Extent
    (1) This bill comes into force on 1st January 2016.
    (2) This bill extends to the United Kingdom.
    (3) This bill may be cited as the Advertising Research Bill 2015.

    Notes:
    While there are extensive advertising standards codes, there is little regulation of the methodology used for the research behind adverts. This bill does not place advertising research under the same level of scrutiny as peer-reviewed scientific literature, but it does enable a quick determination of its technical validity. It ensures that consumers are informed about the quality of the research behind advertising, and thus intends to push advertisers to raise the overall quality of their research.

    Obtaining even rough costings for this bill is very difficult, so I have taken the current funding method for the Advertising Standards Authority, and used a quarter of this value as a ballpark figure.

    The suggested rating criteria were based on the Research Councils UK Policy and Guidelines on Governance of Good Research Conduct, and Dr Ben Goldacre’s book Bad Science.

    The badge that ads will have to carry is envisaged as being a easily recognisable 'sciencey' symbol, shaded in the appropriate colour, similar to something like this:


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    Section 4 seems a little extreme, but I like the idea.
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    A bit of background - this was inspired by the rejected Green bill concerning the use of statistics in advertising, but takes a different approach to achieve the same overall aim: providing consumers with better information.

    This bill is intended to be less arbitrary and more complete, and moves the focus from random restrictions on advertisers to a more comprehensive approach enabling consumer information and choice.

    I also hope to take more consideration of the constructive suggestions of other members than was the case with the authors of Green bill. I will be more than willing to make amendments to this initial proposal in order to get support from across the House.

    (The image at the bottom hasn't come out as nicely as I'd have hoped - I'll work on it tomorrow)
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    Surly red would be misleading advertising and thus illegal already?
    Also maybe all Amber should be red?
    I also don't see the reason why green conditions are defined after previously stating that if Amber or red isn't met then it is green.

    I only wish Actaeon had approached us to work together.
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    (Original post by Aph)
    Surly red would be misleading advertising and thus illegal already?
    Also maybe all Amber should be red?
    I also don't see the reason why green conditions are defined after previously stating that if Amber or red isn't met then it is green.

    I only wish Actaeon had approached us to work together.
    Red isn't necessarily misleading advertising, just poor research practices.
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    This is a really interesting idea. A tentative aye for now whilst I read points raised by others.
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    This seems to be everything the Green bill was not. Well-written, well thought and makes a substantial and excellent change. The one thing I would add, in order to make sure this doesn't fail to comply with EU free movement law, is a provision (possibly a definition of 'advertiser') which states that those who may apply free of charge includes absolutely anyone from an EU member state who wishes to advertise in the UK.

    A strong aye, though, unless someone comes up with something major I've missed.
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    Aye
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    I'll have to give it a full read tomorrow, I'm too tired. Though I am intrigued.
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    Question: how will this affect the sampling methods they use (I mean where they collect masses of data and scale it down so you end up with something like "87% of 132 people agree" )?

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    I think that with some changes, such as replacing the 10% clause with a specified size, this Bill has much to commend it. I think that working with us Greens on a second reading would be a good idea.

    Additional to this Bill, I think it would be worth updating the law on special offers, discounts etc, as my understanding is that it was largely introduced in a pre-internet world.
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    I'm unsure.
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    Aye!

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    Seems like a good idea so aye. Just a suggestion though, for audible advertising you should set a maximum number of words per minute, otherwise companies with an amber or red rating would just have the advert's narrator say the rating so fast that you wouldn't be able to make sense of it.
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    (Original post by TheDefiniteArticle)
    This seems to be everything the Green bill was not. Well-written, well thought and makes a substantial and excellent change. The one thing I would add, in order to make sure this doesn't fail to comply with EU free movement law, is a provision (possibly a definition of 'advertiser' which states that those who may apply free of charge includes absolutely anyone from an EU member state who wishes to advertise in the UK.

    A strong aye, though, unless someone comes up with something major I've missed.
    Thanks for the approval, and the rep! A definition of advertiser is definitely something that should be included. Ideally, I imagine this as something that would be standardised at EU level, with national boards all subscribing to the same criteria and vetting the research produced in their own countries. Unfortunately, this format can't really cope with that scale.

    (Original post by Andy98)
    Question: how will this affect the sampling methods they use (I mean where they collect masses of data and scale it down so you end up with something like "87% of 132 people agree" )?

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    Selecting or dropping recorded data to deliberately skew the results is something that I need to put in the Red criteria for the second reading I think, good catch.

    (Original post by barnetlad)
    I think that with some changes, such as replacing the 10% clause with a specified size, this Bill has much to commend it. I think that working with us Greens on a second reading would be a good idea.
    What do you mean by a specific size? I think the logo/badge has to be stated relative to the display medium size, and 10% seems a reasonable assumption. For example, setting an absolute size of 5cm×5cm might work on some TV screens, but would be almost invisible on a bus stop ad, and far too large on a smartphone screen.

    (Original post by cranbrook_aspie)
    Seems like a good idea so aye. Just a suggestion though, for audible advertising you should set a maximum number of words per minute, otherwise companies with an amber or red rating would just have the advert's narrator say the rating so fast that you wouldn't be able to make sense of it.
    Again, good idea. I'll work out a timing clause and add it in for the second reading.
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    (Original post by Aph)
    Surly red would be misleading advertising and thus illegal already?
    Also maybe all Amber should be red?
    I also don't see the reason why green conditions are defined after previously stating that if Amber or red isn't met then it is green.

    I only wish Actaeon had approached us to work together.
    As far as I'm aware, advertising rules only address the content of adverts—they don't rigorously assess the methodology of the research that gives the findings which are stated in adverts. The ASA can probably demand to see the reports if they consider it necessary, but in the vast majority of cases they won't bother to do that unless they are suspicious. This allows a lot of experimental malpractice to go under the radar.

    I tried to strike a balance between informing consumers, and placing unreasonable demands on advertisers. Research isn't just either good or bad—there's a continuous quality range from the best to the worst, so I felt it was overlly restrictive to allow only exceptional research to be used. Things like relatively small sample sizes or absence of a thorough third-degree variable analysis—while not ideal—aren't enough on their own to justify canning the research.

    I want to have the Green criteria in there, just to show the characteristics of good research, but I do need to justify that in the section. I spotted this when checking through it, but forgot to put in an change. I'll add something for the next reading.

    As for collaboration, I will happily address the concerns from Green members in my revisions, just as I would from any other party
    However, given this was all my own work, and takes nothing from the previous Green bill apart from having a similar aim, I didn't feel the need to specifically ascribe the Greens credit for writing it—I hope you understand.
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    (Original post by Actaeon)
    What do you mean by a specific size? I think the logo/badge has to be stated relative to the display medium size, and 10% seems a reasonable assumption. For example, setting an absolute size of 5cm×5cm might work on some TV screens, but would be almost invisible on a bus stop ad, and far too large on a smartphone screen.
    10% of width by 10% of height (or an equivalent area) would be sensible. 10% of area would be ridiculously large. This bill requires the latter, although by the way you put it this doesn't seem to be intentional.
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    (Original post by Actaeon)
    Selecting or dropping recorded data to deliberately skew the results is something that I need to put in the Red criteria for the second reading I think, good catch.
    You're welcome

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    (Original post by Actaeon)
    Thanks for the approval, and the rep! A definition of advertiser is definitely something that should be included. Ideally, I imagine this as something that would be standardised at EU level, with national boards all subscribing to the same criteria and vetting the research produced in their own countries. Unfortunately, this format can't really cope with that scale.
    Just to clarify - the reason I mentioned that isn't that I think you should try to standardise this, but rather that I believe that without this qualification, the Bill might be contrary to Article 34 TFEU: http://euwiki.org/TFEU#Article_34
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    This is in cessation.
 
 
 
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