Complaints about online ads now outnumber TV cases by 3:1, says ASA

The ASA received 16,059 complaints relating to 14,257 online ads last year / Unsplash

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said that complaints about online ads – including social media posts and in-app executions) outnumbered cases related to TV ads by almost three to one in 2018.

According to the watchdog’s annual report, the ASA received 16,059 complaints relating to 14,257 online ads last year, with grievances up 41% on 2017’s figures. Complaints about TV ads clocked in at 10,773 and related to 5748 different pieces of creative.

In total, the ASA resolved a record 33,727 complaints about 25,259 ads. Overall, it secured the amendment or withdrawal of 10,850 campaigns, a 53% increase on 2017.

The bump in protests around digital ads reflects an increase in awareness from consumers around online regulation, something the ASA is putting at the heart of its new five-year strategy.

As well as issuing new guidance for influencers, the ASA has taken several steps this year to clean up the advertising ecosystem online. These are highlighted in the annual report, and include having taken action against secondary ticketing sites like Viagogo and a tough line on gambling ads skewed towards children.

In the latter area, it’s been testing a new avatar technology that is helping it identify the ads children see online and take action to ban anything that flouts the rules.

ASA chief Executive, Guy Parker, said: “It’s been a busy year, largely driven by complaints and cases about online ads.”

“That’s why our new five-year strategy is focused on strengthening further the regulation of online advertising and using new tech to protect the public,” he added.

“Our recent use of new avatar technology is a taste of what’s to come under the new strategy and we look forward to working with our partners to increase further the impact we’re having online.”

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