ASA’s annual report shows that tech is taking the load – digital and influencers lead complaints

The Advertising Standards Authority has a lot on its plate now that it has the whole digital world to police on top of traditional media, but its annual report, published today, would have us believe that it’s keeping up with the pace.

In 2019 the watchdog turned to technology for the first time as a way to help it wade through the volume of offensive online ads, and to take a more proactive approach to policing the internet.

New monitoring technology uses child avatars to identify and tackle age-inappropriate ads for gambling and for HFSS food and drink products. Other “scraping” technology seeks out problem Botox ads on social media and flags them for removal. Last year, 8,881 ads were amended or withdrawn without waiting for a complaint from the public.

The ASA’s annual report shows that it resolved 34,717 complaints about 24,886 ads last year, of which nearly 10,000 were about TV ads and 16,767 were about online ads. Influencer advertising accounted for more than a quarter of online offenders, and complaints against them do seem to be upheld more than others.

Go Compare’s “Car Crash” ad (above) was the most complained about ad of 2019, followed by a poster for Cheltenham Fireworks and then Deliveroo, which was the only one in the top three to get an actual ban (for misleading consumers).

ASA Chief Executive, Guy Parker says: “Harnessing innovative technology to tackle misleading or irresponsible ads is playing a big part in helping us deliver more effective regulation for consumers and business. And we have some exciting plans ahead, including investment in data science and machine learning. All of which is enabling us to be more pro-active and fleet-of-foot in delivering our ambition to make UK ads responsible, wherever they appear.”

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.