Majority of complaints by Irish consumers are over misleading advertising.
A total of 1,450 written complaints concerning 959 advertisements were received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) last year, according to the organisation’s 2021 Annual Report which was released today. This represents a 12% decrease on the number of complaints received in 2020.
The ‘Travel / Holiday’ sector attracted the greatest number of complaints (207), followed by ‘Leisure’ (151), and ‘Household’ (145).
“With the economic impact of the Covid pandemic resulting in a contraction of advertising spend in 2020, the industry experienced a recovery to pre-pandemic levels in 2021”
‘Digital Media’ gave rise to the highest number of complaints by media (696), representing 48% of all complaints, while complaints relating to broadcast media (TV and radio combined) totalled 603, and outdoor media attracted 67 complaints, an increase of almost 50% on 2020 (36). Of the 696 digital media complaints, 77 complaints related to influencer marketing advertisements, which were 5% of all complaints received.
The ASAI, which is the independent self-regulatory body committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications, found that 68 advertisements were in breach of the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.
New rules for advertising
The ASAI Annual Report outlines that 73% of the complaints made in 2021 were on the basis that an advertisement was misleading, while 9% 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 health & beauty, motoring, food and beverages, telecommunications and alcohol advertising.
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, 117 requests from advertisers, advertising agencies and media for copy advice were received in 2021, an increase of almost 2% since 2020. The ASAI firstname.lastname@example.org service serves as an authoritative opinion given by the Executive, but does not bind the ASAI Complaints Committee.
New rules were introduced in 2021 for advertising of High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products. These rules apply to non-broadcast media and include both restrictions on the amount of HFSS advertising and on the content.
“2021 saw the ASAI continue to deeply engage in all our service offerings,” said Orla Twomey, CEO of the ASAI.
“In particular, there was a valuable increase with both our influence and strong contributions in the area of policy and Code, including recognising and supporting that the new media commission will oversee the new regulatory framework for online platforms based in Ireland and the introduction of new rules for advertising of High Fat, Salt and Sugar (HFSS) products that apply to non-broadcast media and include both restrictions on the amount of HFSS advertising and on the content itself.
“We also continued our engagement with influencer marketing through the #InfluencerMarketing webinar we hosted where we outlined the research previously carried out, showing the importance of authenticity and transparency. 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.”
Suzanne McElligott, interim chair of the ASAI, added: “From initial beginnings on Kildare Street, Dublin 40 years ago, the ASAI has developed and evolved to being recognised for its strong standards and expert knowledge on advertising regulation. Equally, ASAI is regarded as a key player alongside relevant State and private sector organisations operating in this space.
“With the economic impact of the Covid pandemic resulting in a contraction of advertising spend in 2020, the industry experienced a recovery to pre-pandemic levels in 2021. ASAI has experienced a corresponding reduction in advertising complaint levels over the pandemic period, compared to the immediate prior years, even with the recovery in advertising activity. Fostering consumer confidence and trust in advertising offline and online continues as a core objective of the ASAI and the robust complaints mechanism for consumers to challenge advertising content remains an imperative for the industry and for ASAI to facilitate and support.”