Figures published today (26 May) by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) show that the number of online ads investigated by the body is more than double the total for TV – the second most complained about medium. Some 8,633 online ads were subject to investigations, while the number for TV ads was 3,920.
Craig Jones, the ASA’s director of communications, told Marketing Week that more needs to be done to by the body to make brands understand that they have obligations under the CAP Code, regardless of the medium they use.
“We’re conscious that we need to do more to make brands understand that they have obligations under the Code. There is an onus on us to provide training and make people aware of the regulations – so far we’ve provided 250,000 pieces of advice and training,” he said.
“We’re doing quite well in terms of awareness, but not all advertisers are as aware as they should be.”
“It’s advertisers’ responsibility to recognise that same level of responsibility applies to online as it does TV. [Online] is as robustly regulated as traditional media.”
Craig Jones, director of communications, ASA
The body is also hoping to increase its work educating social influencers such as bloggers and vloggers on brand partnership rules. A recent study by Takumi, an app that connects Instagram influencers with brands, found that of 53 influencers who have done brand campaigns in the last six months, 41% had no idea what the CAP code is and 42% never use the required signposting.
“It’s going to be an ongoing challenge to work with influencers, particularly when it comes to younger people online – they quite innocently and unknowingly make mistakes when signposting whether or not they’ve been paid for endorsements.The education process needs to be ongoing, and we need to check whether it had an effect,” he said.
In 2015, the number of consumer ad complaints declined by 7.9% to 29,554, and fewer members of the public saw problem ads in 2015 – 17%, down from 22% in 2013. The mass-viewing nature of TV led to its ads generating the greatest number of individual complaints from consumers (11,611).
Jones said the amount of compliance work by brands “has trebled” to almost 5,500 cases, which has led to a drop in complaints and growing number of ad withdrawals. According to the report, 2015 was a record year in terms of the number of ads that were changed or withdrawn as a result of the ASA’s regulation, at 4,584 ads.
Becoming more proactive
In 2014, the ASA revealed it was “rebalancing” to become less focused on complaints-led work and more on proactive interventions by providing guidance to advertisers. Jones says that while the transformation is not complete yet, big changes were made in 2015.
And this year, the ASA is hoping to implement changes to broadband pricing, as well as examine gender stereotyping in ads, and exploring ways to reduce children’s exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.
Jones concluded: “The report shows the extent of how the ASA has become more proactive. We don’t want to be just a complaints handling house, we want to intervene before consumers suffer harm.”