2,101 complaints received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland in 2017 and 75 advertisements found to be in breach of ASAI Code

2017 Annual Report shows significant majority (61%) of complaints were made

on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading’

A total of 2,101 written complaints relating to 1,066 advertisements were received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) last year, according to the organisation’s 2017 Annual Report which was released today. This represents a 58% increase in the number of complaints received in 2016. The number of complaints resolved at 1,802 represents a 31% increase on the previous year.

The ‘Health and Beauty’ sector attracted the most number of complaints, 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 75 advertisements were in breach of the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.

The ASAI Annual Report outlines that 61% of the complaints made in 2017 were on the basis that an advertisement was misleading, while 12% 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, employment and business opportunities, financial services, food and non-alcoholic beverages, health and beauty claims.

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’. Members of the ASAI are required to abide by the Code and not to publish an advertisement or conduct a promotion which contravenes Code rules. 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, 135 requests from advertisers, advertising agencies and media for copy advice were received in 2017. The number of requests, although lower than those received in 2016, were significantly higher than those received in previous years. The ASAI copy advice 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 2016 and 2015:


SECTOR                                                          2017                2016                 2015

Health & Beauty                                          365                     110                   80

Non-Commercial                                        205                      40                    94

Telecommunications                                189                     248                 240

Leisure                                                             131                     159                  150

Food & Beverages                                       115                     126                   72

Financial                                                        101                      67                    55

Household                                                      95                     125                  101

Motoring                                                         87                      99                    66

Travel/Holidays                                           79                      78                    77

Business                                                           36                      20                   24

Clothing / Footwear                                   33                      33                    14

Property                                                          30                      22                     9

Alcohol                                                            25                      27                    34

Computers                                                     19                      19                    12

TV / Audio / Video                                      17                      27                    15

Publishing                                                      16                      27                    14

Education                                                       12                      15                      9

Employment/Business Opportunitie  10                      10                    13

Agriculture                                                      8                        1                       5

Miscellaneous                                           229                     123                   98

                                                                      1,802                1,376           1,182


In 2017, digital media gave rise to the largest block of complaints, with 777 complaints registered. This represents a significant increase on the same figure for the previous year (586). Digital media has been increasing steadily year on year. In 2010, it represented 22% of all complaints, compared to 43% in 2017. Complaints relating to broadcast media (TV and radio combined) totalled 567, while outdoor media attracted 138 complaints.


Complaints by Media are as follows, with comparative figures for 2016 and 2015:


Complaints by Media

MEDIA   2017 2016 2015
Digital Media   777 586 449
Broadcast   567 354 356
Outdoor   138 118 169
Print   94 71 87
Brochures / Leaflets   72 74 45
Cinema   18 14 5
Direct Marketing   14 10 8
Other   122 57 78
       1802         1,284         1,197








Radio 147 127 118
Television 420 227 238


The ASAI conducts ongoing monitoring of advertising across all media and since 2007, has examined nearly 30,000 advertisements, with an overall compliance rate of 98 per cent. The organisation, which is financed by the advertising industry, also offers free confidential and non-binding copy advice on the compliance of proposed advertising.

Orla Twomey, CEO of the ASAI, speaking at the launch of the 2017 ASAI Annual Report, said:

“The ASAI is committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland and our 2017 Annual Report echoes this statement, conveying the sheer breadth of advertisements adjudicated on by the ASAI’s independent Complaints Committee.

Partly in tandem with awareness campaigns of our range of services, the ASAI experienced a 58% surge in complaints since last year, a trend we expect to continue going forward. Despite a large increase in the number of complaints, we’re delighted to see that compliance with the adjudications of the independent Complaints Committee has remained consistent demonstrating 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.

 The ASAI’s Copy Advice Service also remains an important part of our remit and we would encourage any advertiser who has a concern in relation to their proposed marketing communications in 2018 and beyond, to get in touch and avail of the confidential and free service. 135 copy advice requsts were submitted to the ASAI in 2017 as we continue to work with advertisers, in the interest of consumers, to ensure that all marketing practices in Ireland are legal, decent, honest and truthful. I believe that the ASAI Annual Report for 2017 underpins that commitment.”

 Sean O’Meara, Chairman of the ASAI, says:

“Once again, I am honoured to present the Annual Report  for 2017, which was another outstanding year for the ASAI. During 2017, the ASAI continued reaching out 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 complaints resolution organisation.

 It is evident that there is an increased awareness of the ASAI and its role amongst the general public and media. In addition to these outreach activities, the ASAI contributed in the process of the development of voluntary codes of practice for food marketing and advertising and in a review of telecommunications advertising with government Departments, industry and interested parties.

 This Annual Report demonstrates the extensive remit of the ASAI Code, particularly in relation to digital and online media. There is, I’m sure, no need for me to remind anyone of the continuing pace and breadth of the development of new digital communications platforms. We possess, and sometimes live by, hand-held devices that we regard as highly personal, even intimate. Addiction to Internet services and apps. What impresses me most about the ASAI is that our Board, our Executive and the various sub- committees have their fingers on today’s pulse. As our CEO, Orla Twomey, said during a radio interview, the ASAI follows the advertising and goes where it leads.”


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 2017 ASAI Annual Report


To keep up to date on ASAI activity, follow the organisation on Twitter @THE_ASAI