Email and SMS advertising attracted the greatest number of complaints to date, reports theAdvertising Standards Authority

Biggest offenders are SMS text message and email campaigns. The growing problem is recognised by Lord Gordon Borrie, chairman of the authority which regulates all non-broadcast advertising.

“The ASA is working to keep pace with both the advertising industry and technology to ensure effective and timely regulation in a digital age,” he says in the watchdog's annual report.

In 2002 the ASA received 65 complaints about SMS campaigns, a year later the figure has soared to 393, a 500% increase.

One campaign which the authority banned as misleading, menacing and distressing was for the Tom Cruise film, Minority Report. Mobile phone owners complained after receiving voice messages which included heavy breathing and a scream.

An SMS ad for Tornado Exec was also censured for being misleading. It told recipients they had won £1,000 ($1,780; €1,500).

Complaints about email marketing campaigns rose from seventeen in 2002 to 455 in 2003.

Overall the authority received 1,100 complaints about internet advertising , a year-on-year rise of eight percent.

The ASA attributed the rise to greater public awareness about e-mail legislation.

Data sourced from: BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff