Competitor ad complaints slump

The number of brands making complaints to the advertising watchdog about rivals has dropped by almost 50 per cent this year.

Sainsbury’s ad for their Brand Match promotion was banned after Tesco lodged a complaint

Objections registered with the Advertising Standards Authority fell 46% in the first half of the year over the average received in the same period for the previous three years. The fall is even steeper compared with the first six months of 2011.

The dip stems from the introduction of new rules on competitor complaints introduced in December 2011. Advertisers objecting to a rivals’ ad now have to provide evidence to the watchdog that they have first tried to resolve the issue with their competitors before lodging the complaint.

Competitor complaints are common in the supermarket sector, where Tesco was recently successful in prompting a Sainsbury’s ad to be banned, and between broadband providers.

Complaints about misleading comparisons made by rivals shot up following the onset of the recession when many brands switched their advertising focus to price to attract cash-strapped customers.

The ASA had considered charging brands to make complaints about rivals to stem the flow but ruled the option out after advertisers objected.