Complaints by consumers to the Advertising Standards Authority are
soaring to record high levels.
Public disquiet about ads caused complaints to the ASA to leap by more
than 32 per cent last year to an all-time high of 12,804, according to
the ad watchdog’s annual report published this week.
Although complaints have risen steadily during the past five years, the
increase usually hovers at around 10 per cent year on year.
ASA executives are at a loss to explain such a dramatic and
unprecedented increase, but believe that the complaints - particularly
those levelled at the raunchy poster for the film, Disclosure - are
being fuelled by the intense media interest in advertising.
They claim the rise has nothing to do with a general decline in
advertising standards, pointing out that a quarter of the complaints
centered on just ten ads.
The British Safety Council drew the most complaints last year for an ad
featuring the Pope wearing a hard hat with the line: ‘The Eleventh
Commandment: Thou shalt always wear a condom.’
The record 1,191 complaints about the ad was far more than the number
for Saatchi and Saatchi’s controversial Club 18-30 campaign, which took
the runner-up spot with 490 complaints.
The ASA said the high numbers of complaints generated by the BSC ad, and
another for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, was due to
special-interest groups, which are increasingly urging members to
complain about ads.
But the ASA admits its concern is growing about the number of complaints
made about posters, which rose by 124 per cent last year.
Caroline Crawford, the ASA’s communications director, said: ‘We’re
seeing more ‘in your face’ advertising on posters than before and we’d
like to see poster contractors doing more pre-vetting and looking more
closely at posters before they go up.’