UK Ad Complaints Rise

01 May 2008

LONDON: The Advertising Standards Authority – the UK industry watchdog – received more than 24,000 complaints last year, with messages  from confectioner Cadbury's and the Department of Health among the top ten receiving most objections.

The total number of complaints was up 7.9% to 24,192, with a record 14,080 ads being reported during 2007 – up 9.6% year on year. The regulator ordered 2,457 of these to be changed, another record figure.

A total of 9,915 complaints were received about television commercials, followed by the internet with 2,980 – particularly regarding pricing, availability of goods and charges. More than 2,000 of these related to the content of websites, an area outside the ASA's jurisdiction.

Among the main issues highlighted by consumers were violence, sex and racial depictions, with the Department of Health's 'Hook' campaign (pictured) receiving the most objections (774), as being "offensive, frightening and distressing".

A commercial for Cadbury's Trident chewing gum was in second place, with 519 objections about its portrayal of black people. Kepak's Rustlers burger brand was third with two ads showing a woman in her underwear on a rotating sofa. These were felt by 219 complainants to be "offensive, sexist and demeaning to women".

Says ASA chairman Chris Smith: "We hope for an early outcome to the detailed discussions under way within the industry on the development of ways to ensure continued responsibility in advertising in new-media settings."

Data sourced from Brand Republic (UK); additional content by WARC staff