ASA complaints reach a record high

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received a record number of complaints about more ads than ever last year, according to its annual report.

The growth of complaints reflects changes in consumer behaviour, with the number of complaints about environmental claims almost quadrupling, and the internet becoming the second most complained-about media.

Advertisers boasting about their green credentials prompted 561 complaints about 410 ads – a huge leap from 117 complaints about 83 ads in 2006.

The ASA delivered a series of rulings in the area over the year -including banning a Shell ad that showed chimneys spouting flowers and a Lexus ad with the strapline: “High Performance. Low Emissions. Zero Guilt.”

The body also commissioned research into the public’s understanding of green claims in ads, which showed consumers were often confused by them.

TV was once again the most complained-about media, but the internet leapfrogged newspapers into second place. There were 2,980 complaints to the ASA over the year about the internet, however 72% concerned the content of websites and fell outside the remit of the ASA.

Overall the number of ads that triggered complaints reached an all-time high of 14,080 – up 9.6% – while the total number of complaints received was 24,192, an increase of 7.9%.

The most complained-about ad of the year was a Department of Health anti-smoking campaign, created by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy, featuring addictswith fish hooks in their mouths.

A Cadbury’s TV ad for the Trident chewing gum brand, which people believed was stereotyped and ridiculed black people, was also banned. The campaign was created by JWT.

In third place was an adfor Kepak UK’s Rustlers brand, created by Dublin-based agency Chemistry, which showed a woman in her underwear on a rotating sofa. It was given a scheduling restriction by the ASA.

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