The ASAI’s new strategic focus developed last year aims to strengthen the ASAI’s role as a self and co-regulatory body working with government and industry stakeholders
to reinforce compliance in advertising and provide solutions to challenges presented by the evolving media landscape in Ireland
The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), the independent self-regulatory body committed in the public interest to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications, has today unveiled a new strategic focus as part of their Annual Report 2022.
As identified as part of the ASAI’s renewed corporate direction, trust is the cornerstone of advertising, and fostering this trust between consumers and advertisers will remain a key pillar and undertaking for the ASAI in 2023. As the sole moderator of all advertising complaints in the industry for over 40 years, the ASAI will continue to enforce compliance in this area as a significant focus point of the new organisational direction.
To enhance this new strategic focus, the ASAI has also committed to provide additional resources to increase proactive monitoring and regulating. By committing to increased regulation and the formation of new strategic alliances, the ASAI will continue to foster trust in communications and ensure all content is legal, decent, honest and true. The ASAI is strongly positioned to be at the forefront of both self-regulatory and co-regulatory solutions and has the critical knowledge base to ensure the best solutions are achieved to address the challenges posed by the significant changes to the overall regulatory framework.
The ASAI intends to increase independence on the organisation’s board and make greater use of expert advice through forums and panels while also reaching out for wider industry engagement. Accordingly, ASAI has increased efforts and resources internally for 2023-2024 to ensure this happens.
ASAI has periodically undertaken various compliance monitoring projects, both offline and online. Such is the breadth of digital advertising, that monitoring by fully manual interventions alone can sometimes prevent monitoring at scale. With the development of artificial intelligence and machine learning, ASAI has being giving consideration to the potential use of such tools as a medium to long term part-solution to managing scale. Embarking on a potentially new permanent solution would be a significant investment for ASAI. With this in mind, the ASAI has worked in close partnership with EASA and other member SROs to consider the possibilities, as well as the potential for outsourcing to a dedicated software partner and what benefits it may have to offer on a long-term basis. Further exploratory work in this area will continue in 2023 to align with the renewed corporate direction of the organisation.
ASAI worked alongside the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) during the development of The Online Safety and Media Regulation Act (OMSRA) which was enacted in December 2022 and to explore co-sharing the new onerous advertising related obligations arising for Ireland following the transposition of the AudioVisual Media Services Directive by virtue of the OMSRA. Joining forces with the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA), of which the ASAI is a co-founder, ASAI successfully partnered with them on providing the BAI with a solution to a critical citizens’ complaints mechanism for advertising content on video sharing platforms. This places the ASAI at the centre of an evolving area to protect citizens rights at a pan-European level. The work resulted in a Statement of Intent between the BAI and EASA, with an intent to continue exploring and building on the work to date.
In addition to its work on the new organisational strategy, the ASAI also continued to provide an important complaint handling function to address consumer concerns about advertising and marketing communications. In 2022, ASAI received 1,187 complaints about 897 advertisements. The top three complained about sectors were: Health & Beauty, 193; Leisure, 170 and Motoring, 116. As in previous years, the majority of complaints were made on the grounds that the advertising was misleading (72%) and digital media was the most mentioned media (52%).
The majority of complaints received either did not involve a breach of the Code or the advertising was amended or withdrawn by the advertisers. A key element of the ASAI process is the Independent Complaints Committee who decide on cases submitted to them for formal adjudication. In 2022, 74 advertisements were submitted to the Complaints Committee with 59 advertisements found in breach of the Code. Further details of the complaints resolved by the ASAI in 2022 are available in the Annual Report for 2022.
Commenting on the key highlights from 2022, CEO of the ASAI, Orla Twomey said:
“The ASAI is committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland and our 2022 Annual Report is testament to this statement, conveying the sheer breadth of the ASAI’s activities across a range of areas including compliance, scheduled monitoring, copy advice, brand awareness, complaints investigation and adjudication, advisory corporate services and policy.
2022 saw the ASAI continue to deeply engage in and enhance our service offerings. The development of the new strategic focus and its ongoing implementation has been a significant achievement for the ASAI over the last 12 months and is an area of immense importance as we continue to navigate the ever-changing and evolving media landscape.
Influencer marketing, which continues to grow exponentially, remains an area of significant concern for ASAI in terms of recognisability. While ASAI has had specific guidelines in place for influencer marketing, we look forward to co-creating new guidelines in partnership with the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to revise standards and enhance content safeguards for consumers.
In 2022 we saw consumer awareness of the ASAI as an independent organisation that is responsible for overseeing advertising standards in Ireland increase from 43% (2020) to 55% (2022). This a welcome increase and something that we will strive to grow as part of our new strategic direction.”
Another significant highlight from 2022 was the appointment of Miriam Hughes as Chair of the ASAI last September. With over 30 years working in the Marketing and Communications business, Miriam’s extensive experience will be of immense benefit to the ASAI as the organisation continues to successfully navigate the complexities of the advertising eco-system and extending its reach with diverse stakeholders.
Commenting on the new strategic focus for the organisation, Miriam Hughes, Chair of the ASAI, said:
“It’s been an honour to join the board of the ASAI, particularly at such pivotal time for the organisation developing and implementing our new strategy. With more recent changes to the overall regulatory landscape, the ASAI is strongly placed to provide both independent self-regulatory and co-regulatory solutions to the challenges posed. This is a critical time for the organisation and the wider advertising industry, but we are well prepared having embarked on a new and ambitious corporate strategy to ensure we are highly effective in all areas.
Given the increasing complexities of the advertising, marketing and legislative eco-system, our new strategy has identified the importance of continuing and significantly increasing a focus on enhancing strong relationships with key stakeholders. The ASAI will work even more proactively to maintain its critical role as the regulator for advertising in Ireland, as we seek to develop a closer regulatory relationships and alliances with Government.
We intend to ensure Ireland has a world-class capability in protecting the integrity of all marketing communications across all platforms and ensuring all such content is decent, honest and true. Building on its productive work with the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland, the ASAI Executive are proactively engaging with the newly formed media commission, An Coimisiún na Meán, the statutory body with responsibility for online safety and media regulation. Allied to the organisational strategy, they will capitalise on the opportunity to provide and extend ASAI services to key stakeholders involved, including at Government Department and State Agency level as well as social media platforms headquartered in Ireland.
Our recent sentiment survey demonstrated that trust in advertising has remained low for consumers in Ireland, which is similar to the situation globally. This is a concern for our board, for consumers and Government alike, as well as for the advertising industry. We have committed to renewed strategic focus, in fostering trust in advertising by deploying additional resources to proactively monitoring, regulating and enforcing high standards across all communications sectors.”
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’. Media 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.
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