Online ads 'a challenge to regulate'
For the first time in its history, more people have complained to the UK’s advertising watchdog about adverts on the internet than those in the national press.
In fact, internet advertising is now the most complained about non-broadcast medium, and is the second most complained about media overall, after television.
Significantly though, the vast majority of offending online promotions in 2007 were related to a site’s content, making them outside the regulator’s remit.
Little wonder, then, that Lord Smith of Finsbury, the ASA’s chairman, says the rising number of dubious internet ads poses “a challenge to the self-regulatory system.”
He is calling for an “early outcome” to detailed talks under way in the industry to develop new ways to ensure companies are responsible when advertising online.
In terms of the paid-for ads inside the ASA’s remit, most people complained they were misleading, typically because of the price or charge for a product.
Other common complaints about online advertising relate to delivery times or the omission of relevant information, though complaints of ads being offensive or harmful remain rare.
More than three per cent of the respondents complained about online ads, taking the total to 2,980 last year, seven per cent of which related to sales promos.
Just over ten per cent were filed about display advertising; viral or email marketing attracted only a few complaints, while 72% were about a site’s content.
Like the rising number of complaints about Web-based ads, a surge in the number of complaints about environmental claims are seen as a reflection of the shift in advertising budgets.
So although concerns about violence, sex and race dominate consumers’ complaints about ads, complaints about advertisers overstating their green credentials doubled to 556.
For all media, the number of advertisements complained about reached a record-high of 14,080 last year, the ASA said, while the total number of complaints leapt seven per cent to 24,192.
The most complained about campaign was the Department of Health’s anti-smoking campaign, which featured people with fish hooks in their mouths.
Cadburys’ TV ad for Trident chewing gum was the second most offensive, prompting consumers to say it stereotyped and ridiculed black people
In both these cases; and in rulings on ads by MFI, the furniture business, and Ruslter’s, the burger company, the ASA agreed, and upheld the consumers’ complaints.
14th May 2008