UK Advertising Regulations: An Overview

Regulations, rules and standards are things to consider when planning an advertising campaign in the United Kingdom. The UK advertising rules and codes are set by the ASA – the Advertising Standards Authority – and brands need to understand and adhere to them. 

There are consequences if brands break UK advertising regulations, those that don’t adhere to them can face criminal prosecution or civil action. 

Drovo, founded back in 2015, is a team of specialists with a combined 100+ years of professional experience working in the OOH sector. Rest assured that we take these regulations seriously and will not risk putting your brand in jeopardy.

UK Advertising Regulations on Advertisements Targeted at Children

Children are more vulnerable and less capable of understanding the messaging behind advertisements than adults. Therefore, the ASA has come up with a strict code of rules to regulate UK advertisements aimed at children. 

The objective of these measures is to protect children from misleading, harmful, or offensive material. 

The ASA advertising codes prevent advertisements that represent children in hazardous situations or entice them into engaging in dangerous behaviour. 

The codes also prohibit advertisements that undermine parental authority or place particularly heavy pressure on children to buy products.

In addition, according to Gov.UK, brands must not create advertisements that make misleading comparisons with competitors, including using a competitor’s logo or trademark or comparing your product with a competitor’s product that isn’t similar at all.

Out-of-Home UK Advertising Regulations 

There are key UK advertising regulations that all brands must consider when planning an OOH or DOOH campaign in the UK. Let’s explore these Out-of-Home advertising rules a bit further.

Billboard UK Advertising Regulations

There are rules to follow when executing a digital or traditional billboard OOH campaign. For example, ask the Local Planning Association’s (LPA) permission to install your billboard ad. 

The regulations and requirements will depend on the location and size of the billboard. 

Car Billboards 

There are regulations in force that apply to on-vehicle advertisements. For example, taxi wraps themselves cannot contain artwork that promotes reckless driving. As experts in moving media, Drovo can support you by building an impactful on-vehicle digital media plan that will truly deliver.

Drovo taxi campaign with Formula E in front of London eye.

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Taxi Advertising Regulations

The regulations mentioned above regarding vehicle registration visibility also apply to taxi advertising. QR codes are also not allowed to be displayed on taxi advertisements.

At Drovo, we provide slick full taxi wraps for UK-wide taxi campaigns with our specialist wrapping installation team. Our taxi wraps are compliant with regulations and use 100% non-PVC recyclable materials.  

Use our live vehicle tracking dashboard to check up and monitor the progress of your taxi campaigns with us at any time. Our dashboard allows you to take a look at real-time data such as the number of impressions delivered by the vehicles involved in your campaign.

This extra level of transparency is not possible with bus advertising for instance due to security concerns over publicly providing data on live passenger numbers etc.

In the video below we discuss how our Drovo live dashboard works and how it helps your Out-of-Home campaigns by giving you more data and oversight while the vehicle is out on the road.

UK Railway Advertising Regulations

In order to stay within the rules for train advertisements, you need to consult the train operator or advertising company in charge of managing the marketing side of the station in question.

Network Rail manages marketing and advertising at a fair number of stations, including the 20 largest stations in the UK that they are in charge of. 

Larger billboards will most likely not be allowed at smaller stations with a lack of space for ad displays.

According to Office of Rail and Road statistics, a total of 397 million rail passenger journeys were recorded in Great Britain between July to September 2023.

So, it is understandable for brands and advertisers to want to put Out-of-Home ads in front of rail passengers at busy train stations. 

Different types of train advertising include

  • In-station advertising (including pop-up exhibition stands)
  • Roadside advertising around stations
  • Ticket gate advertising

London Underground Advertising Regulations

Out-of-Home ads at London Underground stations are all managed and go through advertising companies with exclusive contracts with the TfL. 

Click here to read more about the required standard for the approval of advertisements by Transport for London. 

One such rule is that no transport advertisements are allowed to promote food or non-alcoholic drinks which are high in fat, salt, or sugar, according to the Nutrient Profiling Model managed by Public Health England. This means you cannot advertise junk food on the London underground.

Bus Advertising

According to Transport for London, there are over 19,000 bus stops in the capital and more than 5 million passengers per day use London buses. 

But OOH bus advertisements in London will not be approved if the TfL believes they do not comply with the law or with the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing, as laid out by the Advertising Standards Authority. 

Our on-vehicle campaigns are able to reach out and connect with audiences in the nooks and crannies of residential areas that aren’t covered by bus routes. 

At Drovo, we don’t just run taxi campaigns in London, we also run them in other major UK cities too!

Television Advertising Regulations

TV advertising regulations in the UK have tightened up in recent years. A perfect example of this is fast food brands now being prevented by the Advertising Standard Authority from advertising junk food commercials during the commercial breaks of children’s TV shows, whereas this was a common tactic with advertisers in the past. 

Click here to learn more about the ASA’s codes about advertising food and soft drink products to children. 

What Is Ofcom?

Ofcom is the regulatory body for the communications services used by consumers in the UK. 

Examples of the UK communication services it regulates include:

  • Television 
  • Radio
  • On-demand video
  • Telecommunications
  • Mobile services
  • Broadband
  • Postal service

Alongside dealing with complaints based on the content of programmes on television, Ofcom also creates rules on the adverts placed around programmes. 

Complaints about television advertisements are handled by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on Ofcom’s behalf. 

Regulations for Newspaper and Magazine Advertising

Printed media is also a form of non-broadcast media. But what are the UK advertising regulations for newspaper and magazine ads?

Well, just like with other forms of non-broadcast media, newspaper and magazine advertisements are not allowed to contain anything likely to cause ‘serious or widespread offence’, particularly on the grounds of age, disability, gender, sexuality race, religion or belief. 

The only issue is, newspaper sales and readership have consistently been on the decline in recent years. 

Hence, you stand a better chance of connecting with your readership and making an impact through running online ad campaigns in digital newspapers and magazines.

The graph in the table below with data from the Ofcom report on ‘News Consumption in the UK: 2023 shows that the reach of daily and weekly newspapers in the UK wasn’t very strong, with the Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday having the highest reach at 36%. This data reflects the decline in newspaper readership in the UK. 

Drovo Global X taxi campaign London

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