‘Double busy’ ASA reveals fresh spike in online gripes

micky_flanaganThe ad watchdog has revealed it has been, in the words of Micky Flanagan “double busy”, over the past 12 months, with more ads being amended or withdrawn than ever before, triggered by yet another huge rise in online complaints.

According to the Advertising Standards Authority and Committees of Advertising Practice Annual Report 2018 published today, the regulator resolved 33,727 complaints about 25,259 ads.

Protests about online ads rocketed to outnumber TV cases by almost 3:1, Internet ad moans soared 41% to 16,059 (over 14,257 ads), while gripes about TV ads went up 14% to 10,773 (over 5,748 ads).

Other disciplines were way down the “hall of shame”, email campaigns received 924 objections (up 7%), radio 854 (up 13%), outdoor 810 (down 26%) and national press 708 (up 5%).

Direct mail barely scrapes into the top ten, with 333 grumbles (down 2%) out of an estimated 2 billion mailshots. At the bottom of the pile, in 29th place, were complaints about voicemails, which registered a big fat zero.

Overall, the ASA resolved 27,014 own-initiative compliance cases and secured the amendment or withdrawal of 10,850 ads (a 53% increase on 2017).

Over the same period, CAP, which is the body that writes and maintains the UK Advertising Codes, delivered 535,478 pieces of advice and training to businesses to help them get their ads right (38% increase on 2017).

The report also reviews the actions that have been taken to tackle consumer harms and to protect the financially vulnerable; including projects on secondary ticketing, parcel delivery charges, superimposed text n TV ads, and new guidance on gambling.

The ASA has already taken its first steps to strengthen further the regulation of online advertising through its recent use of new monitoring technology in the form of child ‘avatars’ – online profiles which simulate children’s browsing activity – to identify ads that children see online.

This has enabled the regulator to take swift action to ban ads from five gambling operators which were served to child avatars on children’s websites. The ASA said it is planning to extend this avatar work, as well as to explore how other new technologies can help it better protect the public.

ASA chief executive Guy Parker said: “It’s been a busy year, largely driven by complaints and cases about online ads. That’s why our new five-year strategy is focused on strengthening further the regulation of online advertising and using new tech to protect the public. Our recent use of new avatar technology is a taste of what’s to come under the new strategy and we look forward to working with our partners to increase further the impact we’re having online.”

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