ASA & CAP Annual Report 2023: Building world-leading AI capability

Apr 11th '24

Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) new Annual Report 2023 highlights how our world-leading AI-based Active Ad Monitoring system is delivering significant positive impact in our regulation of UK ads.  


In 2023, the Active Ad Monitoring system, which captures large volumes of online ads from channels including social media, search and display and uses in-house machine learning models to assess them, processed a total of 3 million ads over the course of the year. That figure is projected to be over 10 million in 2024. It has expanded visibility of online advertising, allowing experts to make more informed decisions and spot and tackle irresponsible ads more quickly, and is increasingly providing with intelligence on where compliance with the Advertising Code is high.


Read the Annual Report in full. 


In line with the new strategy, ‘AI-assisted, collective ad regulation’, launched last year, the report highlights how we have prioritised proactive regulatory projects, further shifting away from complaints-led investigations towards front-foot ASA-led monitoring and enforcement action. This helped support the ASA’s focus on tackling ad-related societal concerns in areas such as green claims, youth vaping, body image, gambling and prescription-only-medicines.


Adopting a ‘whole system’ approach to issues that cause the most detriment to people, they’ve:


  • Continued to deliver key strands of the Climate Change and Environment project including cracking down on misleading claims in the energy and transport sectors such as sustainability claims for airlines and misleading omissions by oil and gas companies
  • Worked in partnership with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) on shared priorities such as claims for greener homes and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) on green finance
  • Published research and new guidance on recycling, biodegradable and compostable claims and engaged with and offered support through CAP’s Copy Advice service to businesses who want to make environmental claims
  • Further examined the potential harm arising from the use of digitally altered images in ads, holding two roundtable events, one with parliamentarians, academics, third sector, advertisers and publishers and another, facilitated by a children’s charity, to hear young people’s own experiences and observations on the impact of digitally enhanced images in ads on body image
  • Launched multiple investigations and begun enforcement action against ads that trivialised the decision to have cosmetic surgery overseas, pressured consumers and omitted material information about pre-consultations and where they would take place
  • Taken a cross-organisational approach – through investigations, monitoring, enforcement and guidance – to address concerns about vaping ads appearing in social media and being targeted at or likely to appeal to under-18s


All these strands of work were enhanced through expanding the capacity of the Active Ad Monitoring system.


Other key statistics from the ASA and CAP reveal that in 2023:


  • The ASA received 39,034 complaints (up 16%) about 25,041 ads (up 19%)
  • 27,378 ads were amended or withdrawn as a result of ASA work
  • 92% of ads amended or withdrawn resulted from our proactive work, including use of our Active Ad Monitoring system, and 89% of those were non-paid ads online
  • CAP delivered 1,369,887 pieces of advice and training to businesses
  • Online continues to be the most complained about media – 20,944 complaints (up 14%) about 17,174 ads (up 17%)
  • TV remains the second most complained about media – 13,604 complaints (up 19%) about 4,399 ads (up 12%)
  • Email overtook outdoor to become the third most complained about media – 1,210 complaints about 1,058 ads


The report also sets out how they brought greater transparency and broader accountability to their work online through a world-first pilot with platforms and intermediaries. The Intermediary and Platform Principles (IPP) pilot tried and tested ways in which platforms and intermediaries can play a part, and be seen to play a part, in supporting the ASA to help secure responsible advertising online. They welcome the Government’s view that IPP is a significant positive development for the advertising industry. They will now advocate for a second version of IPP that is permanent, comprehensive and effective.


ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker says: “Our investment in data science and AI is equipping us with the tools to deliver more effective ad regulation. It supports the work of our expert teams and is increasingly core to our monitoring and enforcement activities through the intelligence it gives us and that we can act on. It helps us to remain flexible and adapt quickly to safeguard the interests of consumers and citizens, especially the young and vulnerable, in the rapidly changing digital landscape. And we continue to focus on our proactive work, across media as well as online, to prevent irresponsible ads appearing in the first place.” 


Read the full Annual Report 2023 now.



Source: ASA


About ASA & CAP

The ASA is the UK’s independent advertising regulator. The ASA makes sure ads across UK media stick to the advertising rules (the Advertising Codes). The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) is the sister organisation of the ASA and is responsible for writing the Advertising Codes.


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