Advertising Standards Authority and Committees of Advertising Practice publish their Annual Report 2018

The ASA and CAP say that the Annual Report 2018 reveals that more ads have been amended or withdrawn than ever before. In a year when online cases outnumbered television cases by almost 3:1, it also highlights the projects ASA and CAP are undertaking as part of a new five year strategy focused on having more impact online.

The ASA:

  • resolved 33,727 complaints about 25,259 ads: of those, 16,059 complaints (a 41% increase on 2017) were about 14,257 online ads (a 38% increase) and 10,773 complaints (a 14% increase) were about 5,748 TV ads (a 23% increase);
  • resolved 27,014 own-initiativecompliance cases; and
  • secured the amendment or withdrawal of 10,850 ads (a 53% increase on 2017).

Over the same period, CAP delivered 535,478 pieces of advice and training to businesses to help them get their ads right (a 38% increase on 2017).

The report also reviews the actions that have been taken to tackle consumer harms and to protect the financially vulnerable; including projects on:

  • secondary tickets: rulings against the main operators in the secondary ticketing sector for misleading pricing claims on their websites, including enforcement action against viagogo (facing the prospect of prosecution, viagogo came into compliance with the rules);
  • parcel delivery charges: Enforcement Notices issued to retailers across the UK making clear that a definitive claim about “UK delivery” should apply wherever a consumer lives, including Northern Ireland and northern Scotland;
  • superimposed text: research published into whether TV viewers can read and understand superimposed text (supers). Subsequently, CAP toughened the standards required for supers, while the ASA announced it will take a stricter approach to ensure qualifications are presented clearly; and
  • new guidance on gambling ads: new guidance on children and young people to make it even clearer what advertisers need to do to target their ads responsibly and to protect under-18s from content likely to appeal particularly to them, including guidance on the use of animations and child-like cartoon characters.

As well as setting out the work that has been undertaken to make UK ads responsible, the ASA and CAP highlight the measures they need to take to be even more effective, especially online. While the ASA system already regulates online advertising, including companies’ own claims on their websites and social media spaces, its new strategy, “More Impact Online” responds to the fact that people are spending more time online, businesses are increasingly advertising online and the pace of technological change online is contributing to societal concern.

The ASA has already taken its first steps to strengthen further the regulation of online advertising through its recent use of new monitoring technology in the form of child “avatars”, which are online profiles that simulate children’s browsing activity, to identify ads that children see online. The ASA says that this has enabled it to take swift action to ban ads from five gambling operators that were served to child avatars on children’s websites. The ASA is planning to extend this avatar work, as well as to explore how other new technologies can help it better protect the public. To read the ASA and CAP press release in full and to access the Annual Report, click here.