The ad watchdog has bigged up its use of data science and technology in the war on dodgy advertising, revealing it has banned or amended a record 36,491 ads, an increase of 346% on 2019, as the organisation evolves the way it regulates the market.
According to he Advertising Standards Authority and Committees of Advertising Practice Annual Report 2020 published today, the organisation also resolved 36,342 complaints about 22,823 ads, and delivered 722,376 pieces of advice and training to businesses.
The report shows that online cases made up over three-fifths (61%) of all cases and nearly half of all complaints across media; 17,379 complaints about 14,512 cases. Meanwhile TV complaints increased by 43% – perhaps reflecting increased viewership during lockdown – yet only made up a fifth of all cases; 14,211 complaints about 5,070 cases.
In addition, complaints about influencer posts decreased by 8%, but still made up almost a quarter of online cases and the health and beauty sector had the most ads amended and withdrawn (in major part due to its proactive Botox and IV Drip projects).
The organisation insists that the range of work it carried out was extensive but remained focused on protecting young and vulnerable people. While working closely with key enforcement partners, including with MHRA, CMA, National Trading Standards, Gambling Commission and online platforms, bolstered its regulation.
The report also highlights how the ASA is responding to calls for more accountability and transparency for online platforms.
Social media platforms already play an important part in upholding the advertising rules online, the organisation says, and building on these foundations, it has engaged with the Government and the online advertising industry to explore strengthening its regulation online.
The watchdog is also holding platforms to greater account for the role they play in upholding the advertising rules, and being open and transparent about how they perform.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “Despite the huge challenges of the last 12 months, we doubled down on protecting children and people in vulnerable circumstances. We smashed our previous record of ads amended or withdrawn.
“We’re exploring holding online platforms to greater account for their role in upholding responsible ads online and we’re running important projects on the environment, racial and ethnic stereotyping and body image. In all of this, our increased use of technology is transforming the way we tackle harmful and misleading ads and helping us to better protect people.”
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