2019 ASAI Annual Report shows significant majority (65%) of complaints were made
on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading
A total of 1,858 written complaints concerning 1,360 advertisements were received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) last year, according to the organisation’s 2019 Annual Report which was released today. This represents a 10% increase on the number of complaints received in 2018, while the number of advertisements complained about were 15% higher than in 2018.
The ‘Health & Beauty’ sector attracted the greatest number of complaints (229), followed by ‘Leisure’ (172), and ‘Travel / Holidays, while ‘Digital Media’ gave rise to the highest number of complaints by media. The ASAI, which is the independent self-regulatory body committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications, found that 105 advertisements were in breach of the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.
The ASAI Annual Report outlines that 65% of the complaints made in 2019 were on the basis that an advertisement was misleading, while 7% were made on the basis that an advertisement was offensive. There were also a wide range of other issues covered by the ASAI Code that were raised by members of the public, including concerns about alcohol advertising, children, food and non-alcoholic beverages, gambling and environmental claims and distance selling and employment advertising.
The ASAI was established in 1981 and the objective of the ASAI Code is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’. The ASAI Code covers commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital (online banners, websites and social platforms), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, and direct marketing.
The ASAI offers advertisers, agencies, media and promoters a copy advice service on whether a proposed marketing communication or sales promotion conforms to the Code. Copy advice is communicated confidentially, is non-binding and is given free of charge. In total, 139 requests from advertisers, advertising agencies and media for copy advice were received in 2019, 10% higher than received in 2018. The ASAI email@example.com service serves as an authoritative opinion, given by the Executive but does not bind the ASAI Complaints Committee.
Complaints by sector are as follows, with comparative figures for 2018 and 2017:
SECTOR 2019 2018 2017
HEALTH & BEAUTY 229 166 128
LEISURE 172 222 130
NON-COMMERCIAL 170 158 448
TRAVEL/HOLIDAYS 169 102 79
MOTORING 161 100 87
TELECOMMUNICATIONS 139 192 189
FOOD & BEVERAGES 137 289 115
FINANCIAL 108 76 101
HOUSEHOLD 104 100 96
CLOTHING/FOOTWEAR 101 79 33
EDUCATION 48 11 12
PUBLISHING 44 12 16
ALCOHOL 30 26 24
PROPERTY 27 17 30
BUSINESS 26 37 36
COMPUTERS 15 18 19
TV/AUDIO/VIDEO 8 20 17
EMPLOYMENT/BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES 6 9 10
AGRICULTURE 3 9 8
MISCELLANEOUS 203 103 228
1,900 1,746 1,806
In 2019, digital media gave rise to the largest block of complaints, with 976 registered. In 2010, it represented 22% of all complaints, compared to 48% in 2019. Complaints relating to broadcast media (TV and radio combined) totalled 552, while outdoor media attracted 226 complaints.
Complaints by Media are as follows, with comparative figures for 2018 and 2017:
Complaints by Media
MEDIA 2019 2018 2017
The ASAI conducts ongoing monitoring of advertising across all media including monitoring compliance with the adjudications of the Independent Complaints Committee.
Orla Twomey, CEO of the ASAI, said:
“The ASAI is committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland and our 2019 Annual Report is testament to this statement, conveying the sheer breadth of advertisements adjudicated on by the ASAI’s independent Complaints Committee.
“The engagement with the ASAI and compliance with the adjudication of the independent Complaints Committee, demonstrates that advertisers in Ireland are completely on board with the ASAI in our bid to protect consumers and ensure the highest standards of advertising and marketing communications.”
“2019 saw the ASAI continue to deeply engage in all our service offerings. In particular, there was a valuable increase with both our influence and strong contributions in the area of policy and Code: food advertising and concerns about obesity and children; non-alcohol beverages related to safety; mobile and broadband advertising and transparency; influencer marketing and recognisability. The requirement for ASAI contributions in these areas, all of national importance, are indicative of the place we hold as an acknowledged expert on setting standards for advertising.”
Sean O’Meara, Chairman of the ASAI, added:
“During 2019, the ASAI continued its outreach to practitioners in the advertising industry to build awareness of the ASAI and our Code. Furthermore, the Authority continued its endeavours to ensure that those involved in the creation and production of advertising see and recognise the ASAI as a trusted advisor in the creation of Code-compliant advertising, rather than solely as a complaints resolution organisation.”
“As the advertising ecosystem continues to evolve, it is imperative that the ASAI’s aim of providing consumer protection is properly funded. While the ASAI has strong support from all traditional media in Ireland, we urge digital organisations to engage both from a compliance and funding point of view to ensure we can continue serving the industry and most importantly, protecting consumers across all advertising and marketing communication.”
“Our common aim must be safeguarding the long-term protection offered by the ASAI Code to Irish consumers and the advertising industry but to do this, it’s essential that the ASAI and advertisers across all media platforms work in tandem to further advance the service to the industry.”
The ASAI accepts complaints from any person or body who considers that a marketing communication may be in breach of the ASAI Code
Check out www.asai for more details and to also access a
copy of the 2019 ASAI Annual Report
To keep up to date on ASAI activity, follow the organisation on Twitter @THE_ASAI