Radio station's blog spam broke ad rules, says watchdog

Radio station TalkSPORT has been censured by the UK's advertising watchdog for placing advertising on football blogs that pretended to be normal blog postings, an activity known as comment spam.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) found that a member of TalkSPORT staff had sent a post on to a number of football related message boards that purported to be a normal communication from a fan.

"Fellas," read the posting. "Have you heard what talksport radio are doing this season. They are recruiting a fan from every club in the premiership and football league, 92 fans in total who will become the voice for their club on their station."

"Those selected will get a free copy of FIFA 07 from EA Sports on whatever platform you wish. At the end of the day it basically gives you the chance to be on air regularly throughout the entire football season and it might even get you on the first step to a new career. I just hope we get someone who knows what he is talking about," said the posting.

The tactic, which is akin to spamming, runs the risk of breaking the CAP Code, the rulebook followed by the ASA. It states that adverts must clearly be labelled as such.

TalkSPORT said that a member of its staff had made the posting, but that it was not the policy of the station to act in this way and that the member of staff had acted independently of the station. The complaint against the station was upheld.

"The ASA noted talkSPORT radio had not intended the weblog postings to be part of their advertising campaign but the ads had, nonetheless, been placed by a member of their staff," said the ASA ruling. "We acknowledged the measures taken to avoid mistakes of this sort happening in the future, but concluded that, because the ads had not been clearly identified as such, talkSPORT radio had breached the Code. The ads breached CAP Code clauses 7.1 (Misleading) and 22.1 (Recognising marketing communications and identifying marketers)."