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Influencers kept the UK ad watchdog busier than ever in 2022


By Hannah Bowler, Senior Reporter

May 16, 2023 | 4 min read

UK ad watchdog publishes its annual review, giving an update into its non-complaint influencer crackdown.

ASA annual report breaks down influencer marketing cases

ASA annual report breaks down influencer marketing cases / Pexels

Influencer cases investigated by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) increased by 11% in 2022 accounting for one-quarter of all online investigations handled by the regulator.

The ASA published its annual report today breaking down the cases and complaints from the previous year. 5,318 people complained to the ASA over influencer posts that were improperly labeled as ads, an increase of 9% (4,889) from the previous year. The increase follows the regulator’s proactive crackdown on influencers in its public ‘name and shame’ list.

The ASA uses AI to identify ads that are likely to be unlabeled which is coupled with a monitoring tool that is placed on influencer accounts or categories that are more likely to publish rule-breaking content.

A similar style of proactive monitoring has been applied to greenwashing and cryptocurrencies. Offending ASA greenwashers have included the likes of Tesco, Innocent Drinks, HSBC, and Persil.

ASA 2022 cases at a glance

In 2022 the ASA banned or got brands to amend 31,227 ads more than double the amount in 2021 (53%).

The regulator received 35,350 complaints in 2022, 11,461 (-24%) fewer than the previous year. In October 2022 the ASA rolled out a UK-wide awareness campaign to encourage consumers to make complaints, it followed a successful pilot campaign in Scotland from 2021.

Online, TV, and outdoor are the top three most complained about channels and the media with the highest ASA cases. Online received 18,430 complaints in 2022 up 11% from 2021 and 14,683 cases which were in line with the previous year. Meanwhile, TV racked up 11,381 complaints down 44% in 2021 with 3,904 cases, also down 2021 by 19% and outdoor advertising received 1,419 complaints last year, up 14% in 2021, and 520 investigations up 24%.

Digging into the categories, leisure, health/beauty and retail were the topmost troublesome advertisers for the regulator. Leisure received 6,727 complaints last year in line with 2021, and the ASA opened 5,233 cases, a mere 1% higher than in 2021. Health and beauty racked up 4,771 up 6% from 2021 along with 2,680 cases, down by 4% from the previous year. The retail sector halved the number of complaints in 2022 from 2021 (-56% to 4,313) and decreased the number of ASA investigations by 11% to 3,012.

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