How many times have you opened your email account to find SPAM cluttering the inbox? How many times have you been searching the web and had to plough through pop-window advertisements disguised as a system messages? Your answer, most likely, is a resounding "much too often." Now the Internet Ethics Code of Advertising, recently put into effect onto Czech websites, is trying to change all that -- and more.
The Czech Association for Internet Advertising is trying to protect the integrity of the internet, ensuring that advertisements on the web are honest and in good taste. The new ethics code tackles four specific areas: erotic ads, misleading advertisements, hidden banner formats, and overtly aggressive advertising tactics. Petr Bednar, chairman of the association which initiated this program, explained why it is necessary to enforce these new rules at this particular time:
"During the last few years the internet has gradually become a well-respected advertising medium which makes use of a large amount of ads. The ethics code functions as a certain form of needed self-regulation. As an association representing this segment of the market, we decided to apply an ethics code that will solve specific problems for the internet, those problems which are not solved in the general advertising laws."
Under the new regulations erotic ads can be shown only between 10:00 at night and 3:00 in the morning. Hidden advertisements with gimmicks are strictly forbidden. Furthermore, all ads must be clearly marked as such, even when sent to email addresses. Also, the reader must have the possibility to skip or end undesired aggressive banner formats. These are just a few examples of the recently implemented rules.
Mr. Bednar also elaborated on the ways he hopes the new steps will change internet advertising and set a new standard:
"We predict that the internet advertising market will be further cultivated and should lead to increased advertising income on the internet. At this moment the internet is growing much faster than all other advertising media, but there is still room for much more growth, considering that the number of internet users is significantly increasing and already stands at about two and half or possibly three million people in the Czech Republic."
Still, some questions are left unanswered: to what extent can the ethics of internet advertising be defined? To what extent will the code prove effective and what problems, if any, lie ahead in the battle to overcome the indecency and deception of certain advertisements?
Petr Bednar of the Czech Association for Internet Advertising remains optimistic and doesn't foresee that the new rules will spark any difficulties or complaints.
"I think it is in the interest of both the independent advertisers and the media to follow the specific rules, and the code will have only positive results."
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