Most ASAI complaints in Ireland are about misleading advertising
11 May 2020
The Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI) has published its Annual Report. At a time when online shopping and digital commerce are experiencing exponential growth and have played a key role during the pandemic, the ASAI wants digital platforms to engage significantly from both compliance and funding perspectives.
The Annual Report shows a significant majority (65%) of complaints about advertising in Ireland were made on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be misleading while 7% were made on the basis that an advertisement was offensive. The proportion of complaints about misleading advertising was broadly similar to 2018.
The report states that the ASAI received a total of 1,858 written complaints concerning 1,360 advertisements. This represents a 10% increase on the number of complaints received in 2018, while the number of advertisements complained about were 15% higher than in 2018. The ASAI found that 105 advertisements breached the rules in the Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.
The health & beauty sector attracted the greatest number of complaints (229), followed by ‘leisure’ (172), and travel / holidays, while, perhaps unsurprisingly, digital media gave rise to the highest number of complaints by media. Other issues raised included concerns about:
- alcohol advertising;
- food and non-alcoholic beverages;
- gambling and environmental claims; and
- distance selling and employment advertising.
Highlights of 2019
During the year, the ASAI rolled out its Guidance Note on Marketing Communications for mobile. This note changed the way telecoms operators are required to deliver advertising content for mobile phone and broadband services, especially over the use of specific marketing terms to describe telecommunications.
The ASAI developed guidelines for advertising Non-alcohol Product Variants, reflecting the increase in the emergence of this product category. The guidelines reflect the ongoing ASAI interventions in the protection of children concerning advertising.
During 2019, the ASAI worked closely with influencers and bloggers, through its copy advice and complaints services. It says that key supports and developments for these content creators centre around the importance of transparency for brand reputation of both influencers and companies when co-creating marketing communication content. The ASAI continued its outreach to public and private sectors during 2019, engaging with stakeholders on the effectiveness and ongoing development of the Code.
The report highlights the fact that digital providers are not fully engaged with the advertising self-regulatory system and do not support the ASAI financially. The ASAI is working with the European Advertising Standards Alliance with the aim of ensuring that the digital platforms engage significantly with the advertising self-regulatory national systems, both from a compliance, as well as from a funding, point of view.
The standards that apply in traditional media apply to marketing communications carried in digital media. The remit of the ASAI is very broad in this area and the ASAI’s report states that, with the exception of a small number of individual advertisers, the others comply fully when accepting the adjudications of the Complaints Committee or advice from the ASAI Executive in relation to their digital marketing communications, including those on social media platforms.
In the past number of years, influencers have come to the fore in fronting campaigns on behalf of advertisers and have, themselves, become digital publishers. While advertisers are ultimately responsible for their marketing communications, influencers acting as agents must also comply with the Code rules. Consequently, content that influencers publish which meets the criteria for a marketing communication, is subject to the Code.
The exponential growth in digital advertising has led the ASAI to engage further with the associated platform providers. The equitable application of, and support for, the Code across all media, offline and online, is a priority for the ASAI.
The Code already contains detailed rules on alcohol advertising. The Public Health (Alcohol) Act 2018 introduced legislation concerning restrictions on marketing communications for alcohol products. The Act came partially into effect in November 2019 and is anticipated to be fully effective over the next three years. The ASAI Code will be amended appropriately to accommodate the changes imposed by the Act. The Code will continue to regulate alcohol advertising in areas not covered by the Act, such as digital advertising.
The ASAI has also considered areas such as online political advertising, changes to comply with the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive, farm safety and advertising, gambling advertising; and as mentioned above, influencers and bloggers.