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ASA tackles online ad complaints

News, 30 May 2016

LONDON: The media landscape has increasingly shifted online, a trend reflected in new figures released by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which investigated 8,633 online ad cases compared to 3,920 on TV in 2015.

The UK regulator's Committee of Advertising Practice's annual report showed TV ads still generated the greatest number of individual complaints (11,611), but the internet is dominating its caseload.

Overall, the number of consumer complaints about ads declined by 7.9% to 29,554 last year, and fewer (17%) members of the public saw problem ads, but a record 4,584 ads were changed or withdrawn as a result of ASA's regulation.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA, said that, as well as the record number of ads changed or withdrawn, the volume of its compliance work had trebled to almost 5,500 cases.

He added that the ASA's work is becoming more proactive and having more of an impact, and this year the ASA will be looking to implement changes to broadband pricing, examine gender stereotyping in ads, and look into how to reduce children's exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.

"The figures we've published today also show how protecting consumers, particularly children, online continues to be an urgent priority," he said.

The watchdog also plans to issue new guidance for bloggers and vloggers on the disclosure of paid-for endorsements, an issue that Craig Jones, Director of Communications at the ASA, acknowledged could be a "challenge".

"It's going to be an ongoing challenge to work with influencers, particularly when it comes to younger people online – they quite innocently and unknowingly make mistakes when signposting whether or not they've been paid for endorsements," he told Marketing Week.

"The education process needs to be ongoing, and we need to check whether it had an effect," he added.

He went on to say that the ASA was aware it needed to do more to ensure brands understand they have obligations under the CAP Code, whichever medium they choose to use.

"There is an onus on us to provide training and make people aware of the regulations," Jones said. "So far we've provided 250,000 pieces of advice and training. We're doing quite well in terms of awareness, but not all advertisers are as aware as they should be."

Data sourced from ASA, Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff