Figures released in the ASA Committee of Advertising Practice’s (CAP’s) annual report showed TV ads still drew the most individual complaints (11,611) but the internet was dominating the voluntary watchdog’s activities.
It noted its increasing influence in that a record 4584 ads were changed during the year due to its rulings and advice – up 32% on 2014.
It specified a controversial Protein World supplement campaign - ‘Are you beach body ready?’ – as causing a 153% spike in complaints about ads on public transport. But overall complaints dropped 7.9% in the year.
“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,” said Guy Parker, ASA chief executive.
“As well as the record number of ads changed or withdrawn, the volume of our compliance work has trebled to almost 5,500 cases.”
Parker added: “In 2016, we’ll be implementing changes to broadband pricing, as well as examining gender stereotyping in ads, and exploring ways to reduce children’s exposure to ads for age-restricted products in social media.”
Crime & punishment
Whilst technically voluntary, the ASA does have certain powers available to it. Companies who flout the law can be added to its list of non-compliant advertisers. Those on the list are named and shamed on its website and may be subjected to penalisation through ASA’s partnership with search engine operators .
The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) can ask internet search engines to remove a company's paid-for search ads linking to the non-compliant marketing.
It can also launch its own AdWords campaign against the company, which would feature on search engines and tell searchers that the company was in the ASA's bad books.