Special interest groups are going to unprecedented lengths to get
industry watchdogs to ban ads they find objectionable, resulting in a
deluge of complaints against a small number of ads during 1997,
according to new figures from the Advertising Standards Authority.
Of the ten most complained about ads last year, three were catapulted up
the table by campaigns organised by lobbying groups, the ASA’s annual
report says. This compares with one ad in 1996 and none during 1995.
But ASA officials warned lobbyists this week that sheer weight of
complaints alone would never force them to demand an ad’s withdrawal.
’It’s quality of complaints that count, not the volume,’ an ASA
spokesman said. ’Pressure groups will not get far unless they realise
that we deal in facts, not opinions.’
The ASA threw out 94 complaints from the gun lobby - the most provoked
by a single campaign last year - against two Saatchi & Saatchi posters
calling for a ban on .22 calibre handguns after the Dunblane
The authority also rejected 56 complaints against a Delaney Fletcher
Bozell cinema ad for the Gun Control Network featuring a gun being fired
at a human-shaped target.
Overall, complaints fell by 11 per cent to 10,678 in 1997 from 12,055
the previous year, with 512 ads having been found to break the
But the number of advertisers and media owners seeking advice from the
ASA before running ads rose by 1,000 to 11,500 last year. ’There seems
to be more concern about getting ads right rather than just being
controversial,’ an ASA executive said.