The effectiveness of online ads may still be open to debate, but one thing is certain, consumers are growing increasingly disgruntled with them after the ad watchdog has revealed a surge in complaints about the sector, triggering a huge increase in the total number of ads which have been withdrawn.
According to the Advertising Standards Authority’s annual report, online ads have overtaken TV in terms of complaints for the first time; with 10,932 gripes about 9,951 online ads, compared to 9,466 moans about 4,666 TV ads. In contrast, there were just 333 complaints about direct mail campaigns.
Across all media, 7,099 ads were withdrawn or amended last year – a huge increase on the 4,824 ads affected in 2016.
And although the number of complaints went down 4.8% to 27,138 in 2017, the number of ads complained about was up 14% to 19,398.
Those in the ASA hall of shame include Heinz, BT, Sky, Aviva, and John Lewis, although arguably the most controversial campaign of 2017 – KFC’s “The whole chicken” was not investigated, despite being the subject of 500 complaints.
However, the watchdog has been keen to point out that the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) resolved 20,952 compliance cases, a move the ASA claims is “further evidence of proactive action to protect consumers”. This figure contributed to the record number of ads or ad campaigns that were amended or withdrawn.
The report outlines major regulatory interventions made by the ASA during 2017, including a clampdown on online alcohol ads which target kids, broadband providers’ speed claims and the clear labelling of influencer ads.
ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “We want to make sure ads are responsible without consumers necessarily having to complain to us. By being more proactive, we’ve secured the amendment or withdrawal of more ads than ever before.
“At the same time, we’ve delivered a record amount of advice and training to help businesses get their ads right before they run. Our approach is helping make ads more responsible, which is in the best interests of consumers, businesses and wider society.”
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