Our Annual Report published today reveals the steps we’re taking to have more impact and be more proactive as part of our ambition to make every UK ad a responsible ad.
ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker, said “Although we received over 37,000 complaints last year, our highest ever, that’s not the full story. Social media platforms helped mobilise mass complaints about a small handful of controversial ads, but the total number of ads complained about was actually down. It’s two other 2014 record highs that show our proactive mettle: almost 1,600 enforcement cases resolved, protecting people from irresponsible ads, and almost 200,000 pieces of advice and training delivered, helping advertisers and others get their ads right in the first place.”
The Report highlights the work we’re undertaking to respond to consumer and societal concerns around advertising. In summary, last year we took steps to:
- Understand society’s concerns about ads – we conducted research into the public’s experience of ‘copycat websites.’ After identifying the extent and ways in which these non-official services can mislead, and working in tandem with Government Digital Services and search engines, we carried out sector wide-enforcement work and updated our guidance to advertisers to tackle problems in this sector
- Support advertisers – CAP published new guidance for advertisers and vloggers to help them make it clear to consumers when they are advertising on social media. Working with industry, CAP also produced new guidance to tackle misleading property prices and developed its first eLearning module on alcohol advertising
- Have more impact – we introduced our new Prioritisation Principles to help us spend more of our time on the ads that cause most harm to people
- Be more proactive – CAP consulted on and introduced new rules for e-cigarette advertising and commissioned a comprehensive independent review of online food and drink marketing to children to ensure the food rules are in the right place
- Raise awareness – we created our national advertising campaign, which we launched in January 2015, so people feel confident in the knowledge that if they spot an ad that they think is misleading, harmful or offensive, we’re here to put it right
We’ve been putting some serious thought into how we go about working as effectively as possible,
with the interests of the consumer in mind. As part of that, we want to put a stronger focus on those
cases where there is the greatest potential detriment or harm.
Lord Smith, ASA Chairman
Achieving our ambition means doing things differently and looking at new ways of working. For instance, through a more project-based approach, initiating reviews into a number of sensitive areas, such as payday loans, and improving and better targeting our advice and training so every business has access to the information and support it needs.
It also means we’re responding to and ensuring we keep pace with the rapidly changing media landscape, such as our ongoing work with vloggers. The importance of that is underlined by the fact that, for the first time, the internet overtook television as the most complained about medium with 13,477 complaints about 10,202 ads, an increase of 35% from 2013.
We received 37,073 complaints about 17,002 ads in total and our work resulted in 3,384 ads being changed or withdrawn and a record 1,599 compliances cases resolved. Continuing to help advertisers get their ads right, CAP delivered training and advice on a record 194,200 occasions - an increase of 21%.
Chairman of the ASA, Lord Chris Smith said: “We’ve been putting some serious thought into how we go about working as effectively as possible, with the interests of the consumer in mind. As part of that, we want to put a stronger focus on those cases where there is the greatest potential detriment or harm. By having more impact and being more proactive we can help provide a responsible framework for advertisers to continue to engage creatively with their customers.”