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Advertising MoneySupermarket ASA

Misleading ads form two thirds of ASA complaints in recording-breaking six months


By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

September 28, 2017 | 3 min read

UK ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has revealed it has been behind the amendment or withdrawal of a record number of ads.

Money Supermarket

MoneySuperMarket's Epic Strut offended many

Some 3,034 ads were the focus of ASA decisions in the first six months of 2017, up a whopping 88% on the same period in 2016. However, across 20% less complaints than the year prior, cases were up 11%, tallying at 13,131 against 9,486 complaints respectively.

The ASA has put this down to the controversial twerking MoneySuperMarket ad that prompted almost 1,000 complaints, an anomaly that spiked results. The vast majority of the complaints related to the offence of seeing a man in heels and hotpants dancing.

On the subject, some 8,195 misleading ad complaints comprised 62% of the ASA’s input and accounted for 76% of cases, across mediums like TV, radio, online, print and more. TV viewers are vastly more likely to complain about an ad on the basis of offence.

There’s a gulf when comparing online to TV ad complaints; on TV 3,439 incidents related to offence and only 1,677 to misleadingness; online tells a different story, only 360 related to offence and 3,673 were concerned with misleadingness. There are material causes for these differences, TV is tightly regulated by broadcasters, more established and infinitesimally smaller than the online space.

The most complained about advertising mediums are as follows: TV at 5,127 complaints, internet at 4,062, email at 507, radio at 447 and poster 425. The leisure sector prompted the most public action, followed by work in the retail, health and beauty, financial and business sectors.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: “We’re spending more time online, but the mass audience of TV ads means they continue to generate the most complaints. Online ads account for the greatest number of individual cases, with the majority being companies’ own advertising claims on their own websites and social media spaces.”

He concluded: “Whatever the issue and whatever the medium, we should all be able to trust the ads we see and hear. If an ad is wrong, we’re here to put it right.”

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