Changing landscape of advertising regulation

May 31st '16

ASA and CAP Annual Report 2015: The balance is shifting


Figures published last week [Thursday 26 May] show the changing landscape of advertising regulation continues to be dominated by online ads, with the number of internet cases standing at over double those of the second most prolific medium, TV (8,633 compared to 3,920). Meanwhile, the mass-viewing nature of TV ensured that ads on the box generated the greatest number of individual complaints from consumers (11,611), taking back the top spot from the Internet.


The league table was released today as part of Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and the Advertising Standards Authority‘s (ASA’s) annual report. The report also shows how advertising regulation itself is changing, owing to a rebalancing from complaints-led work towards more proactive interventions in markets where consumers are facing harm. Examples include a new approach to broadband pricing, sector-wide advice for osteopaths on how to advertise responsibly, and new guidance for vloggers on the disclosure of paid-for endorsements.


Consequently, while the number of consumer complaints about ads declined by 7.9% to 29,554, 2015 was a record year in terms of the number of ads that were changed or withdrawn as a result of regulation (4,584). While this figure has risen 32% since 2014, it still represents only a small proportion of the overall advertising landscape –data also published today suggests fewer members of the public saw problem ads in 2015 – 17%, down from 22% in 2013.


The report also shows which sectors and media received the most complaints during 2015. Notably, complaints about ads on public transport increased 153% – primarily owing to the high-profile and controversial ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ad.


The most complained about sector was Leisure (films, DVDs, computer games, gambling), with 3,932 complaints about 2,530 cases. Meanwhile, the financial sector saw a 78% rise in complaints, driven primarily by the ad featuring ‘Dancing Dave’, which was the most complained about ad of 2015.


Conversely, the alcohol sector saw complaints decline by 37% to just 118 about 90 ads.


Chairman of CAP and BCAP, James Best said: The responsibility of advertisers, agencies and media to exercise care in producing responsible and honest advertising is paramount. But we’re committed to playing our part supporting industry in getting their ads right. It’s been a record year for CAP delivering help and advice; through our increased focus on training, producing new guidance and intervening through compliance work, we’ve sought to balance the protection of vulnerable audiences with the freedom of others to see and hear about things they might like.


Download the Annual Report


Source: ASA & CAP


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