Countdown to our 50th anniversary: 2003
20 September 2012
2003 is almost a decade ago now, but many of the things which began that year still have a legacy today – from the Shard to the London Congestion Charge, despite the cancellation of its extension westwards. Likewise, the ASA’s Annual Report highlights two key events which shape the Authority as it is today.
Unsolicited e-mails and text messages became a big issue in ’03 – complaints about this type of marketing rose a whopping 500% from the previous year’s levels. This marked the tentative beginnings of the ASA’s quest to regulate digital media. 2003 was also the year that Ofcom first mooted the idea of a ‘one stop shop’ for advertising and the first plans were made for TV and radio advertising regulation to come under our umbrella.
One particularly ‘innovative ad’, or at least that was the defence of the advertiser, came in for criticism that year. Twentieth Century Fox sent out an ad promoting the film ‘Minority Report’ in the form of a voice message sent to consumers’ mobile phones, which included a sound clip of heavy breathing and a scream taken from the film. While the advertiser argued that the approach was ‘futuristic’, and that recipients would recognise Tom Cruise’s voice, ASA Council disagreed and ruled that the ad was likely to be seen as menacing and likely to cause offence, fear or distress. It is not clear whether Tom Cruise’s voice was the heavy breathing or the scream.
The year’s most complained about ads highlighted that consumer sensibilities nine years ago chime with some of the sensitive topics we deal with today. A Barnardo’s press ad that year received 425 complaints – showing that charity advertising and its ability to shock the public was one for debate and discussion. As Europe sizzled under record temperatures, EasyJet avoided censure for a topical ad about Spanish señoritas and their “weapons of mass distraction”.
Finally, the year that saw England lift the Rugby World Cup was also a record breaking year for the ASA. We received 14,277 complaints, a new annual record, and still found time to publish a new edition of the CAP Code, and launch the first Help Note on religious offence. 5-a-day claims, directory enquiries and voice mail ads were other big issues in the year that the ASA made its first steps to becoming the premier destination for all ad complaints.
Read the 2003 Annual Report here