What is marketing compliance and why does it matter?

Target-01‘Marketing’ and ‘compliance’ are two words we increasingly see used together.

We look at what the term means, and why compliance is important to marketers – no matter what sector you work in.


What do people mean by marketing compliance?

Marketing is typically seen as a creative industry. But for marketers in regulated firms – those governed by regulators like the Financial Conduct Authority or Solicitors Regulation Authority – there is a need to balance creativity with compliance.

Even for non-regulated firms, there are rules to be followed. The Advertising Standards Authority polices and enforces advertising standards that apply to all UK advertisers. While all firms processing data for EU contacts need to comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which came into force in May this year.

So, if you work in Marketing, even for a non-regulated firm, compliance should be a key consideration. If are regulated and have a Compliance team, you may think that avoiding regulatory breaches is their responsibility, but in fact everyone in your business has a role to play.


What are the implications of non-compliance in marketing?

It’s important that everyone takes these roles seriously, as falling short when it comes to marketing compliance can have significant implications.

Some regulatory breaches can result in fines – firms failing to comply with the GDPR, for instance, face potential fines of up to €20 million or 4% of the firm’s global turnover.

FCA fines totalled more than £200m in 2017 – and while not all of these were for marketing misdemeanours, they show the regulator’s willingness to impose financial sanctions.

And not all penalties are financial. Your corporate reputation is intrinsically linked to governance issues, so compliance is an essential aspect of your brand strategy. With brand reputation so easy to destroy, you need to do everything you can to protect yours – and marketing compliance forms a large part of this.


How to ensure your marketing is compliant

1.  Understand the rules

First of all, familiarise yourself with the regulations you have to follow. You can get our lowdown on how to avoid GDPR pitfalls and read the ASA’s tips on how to avoid producing misleading ads.

The FCA releases data on the complaints it receives – look at these and you can identify where others have fallen short of the Authority’s standards. Read more about how you can use the FCA’s complaints data to your advantage and refresh yourself on the FCA’s financial promotion rules.

2.  Put compliance front and centre

Making regulatory compliance central to all you do is essential. This is vital if you want to make it an integral part of your processes, rather than a bolt-on that’s all too easy to forget. Make sure you build a culture of good governance by following our five tips for embedding a compliance culture into your business.

3.  Develop a cross-business approach

Making this governance focus ‘business as usual’ means getting everyone involved.

Work with your Compliance team to understand what compliant content looks like and how you can write copy that will get first-time approval. Do this and you will reduce your admin pile by minimising the amount of time you spend on edits and rework.

Collaborate to make production of marketing materials more efficient. Read more about why collaboration is the key to better marketing and how you can improve marketing team collaboration.

4.  Have water-tight processes

Compliant financial promotions mean not just content that meets the FCA’s standards, but a production process that does too.

You need to record Compliance team reviews and edits in a way complies with the regulator’s requirements for an audit trail. Read our tips for making your approvals process better for advice on how you can make sign-off as efficient and robust as possible.

5.  Explore solutions that can help

All of this takes time – which isn’t always compatible with the tight-deadline marketing world.

Explore technologies and solutions that can speed the production process. Regulatory technology – so-called regtech – can help you here.


Automating your review and approvals processes can have the double benefit of mandating Compliance team approval – meaning that regulatory breaches are less likely to slip through the net – and making them slicker and faster.

Whether or not you work in a regulated industry, there will be rules you need to comply with. If you are producing advertising, web content, emails, social media posts – some form of regulatory compliance will be necessary. Hopefully this blog has given you an insight into, or a refresher on, what this means in practice.

To read more, you can download a copy of our Financial Promotions Checklist for Marketing. The checklist outlines the five stages you need to follow and embed as best practice if you want to achieve compliance with the FCA's requirements; it's free and you can download a copy here.

Nothing in this document should be treated as an authoritative statement of the law. Action should not be taken as a result of this document alone. We make no warranty and accept no responsibility for consequences arising from relying on this document.


 New Call-to-action