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Ad regulation focuses on online

Figures published as part of the Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP’s) annual report show the changing landscape of advertising regulation continues to be dominated by online ads, with the number of internet cases standing at over double those of the second most prolific medium, TV (8,633 compared to 3,920). Meanwhile, the mass-viewing nature of TV ensured that ads on the box generated the greatest number of individual complaints from consumers (11,611), taking back the top spot from the Internet.

The report also shows how advertising regulation itself is changing, owing to a rebalancing from complaints-led work towards more proactive interventions in markets where consumers are facing harm. Examples include a new approach to broadband pricing, sector-wide advice for osteopaths on how to advertise responsibly, and new guidance for vloggers on the disclosure of paid-for endorsements.

Consequently, while the number of consumer complaints about ads declined by 7.9 per cent to 29,554, 2015 was a record year in terms of the number of ads that were changed or withdrawn as a result of our regulation (4,584). While this figure has risen 32 per cent since 2014, it still represents only a small proportion of the overall advertising landscape –data also published today suggests fewer members of the public saw problem ads in 2015 – 17 per cent, down from 22 per cent in 2013.

The report also shows which sectors and media received the most complaints during 2015. Notably, complaints about ads on public transport increased 153 per cent – primarily owing to the high-profile and controversial ‘Are you beach body ready?’ ad.

The most complained about sector was Leisure (films, DVDs, computer games, gambling), with 3,932 complaints about 2,530 cases.

Meanwhile, the financial sector saw a 78 per cent rise in complaints, driven primarily by the Moneysupermarket.com ad featuring ‘Dancing Dave’, which was the most complained about ad of 2015.

Conversely, the alcohol sector saw complaints decline by 37 per cent to just 118 about 90 ads.

Guy Parker, Chief Executive of the ASA said: “The ASA’s ambition is to make every UK ad a responsible ad and recent changes show how our regulation is becoming more proactive and having more impact. Alongside our important work resolving consumer complaints, we’ve taken proactive action in areas that make the biggest difference for the public. As well as the record number of ads changed or withdrawn, the volume of our compliance work has trebled to almost 5,500 cases.

“The figures we’ve published today also show how protecting consumers, particularly children, online continues to be an urgent priority. In 2016, we’ll be implementing changes to broadband pricing, as well as examining gender discrimination in ads, and exploring ways to reduce children’s exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.”

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