The Advertising Standards Authority has released its annual report, which includes some interesting figures. The headline news is that there were more than twice as many internet cases compared to TV cases in 2015, though TV’s reach and impact meant that it was the medium with the highest volume of individual consumer complaints.
The total number of complaints about TV ads remained fairly steady, down by 3% on last year, but these complaints were about fewer cases – 17% fewer to be exact. The great news is that the number of formal investigations and upheld rulings fell drastically. In 2014 there were 89 upheld rulings out of 192 formal investigations; in 2015 there were 53 upheld rulings from 112 investigations. Not all TV ads come through Clearcast; of the ads we saw there were just 39 upheld rulings out of 81 investigations. It’s worth remembering that this is a tiny fraction of the ads we clear – the vast majority are broadcast without complaint or ASA involvement.
The product categories with the biggest overall increases in complaint volumes this year were finance and travel. While it could be tempting to read more into this, the increases are mainly because of two high profile ads. Booking.com caused a high volume of complaints for the travel sector, and Moneysupermarket.com for finance. Neither were the subject of upheld complaints. We wrote about the Booking.com controversy over on our blog when the ASA made its ruling.
Alcohol has long been one of the most contentious sectors (you can take a look at our run down of the top issues here), but the number of complaints and cases has continued to fall. This shows that the proactive work we do, as well as the industry’s voluntary code of practice, are having the desired impact. It is now the 6th least complained-about sector.
The ASA’s full annual report is available here.