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How can the ASA possibly keep up with the barrage of bad online advertising?

All six complaints upheld by the ASA this week relate to digital advertising.

Whether it’s an alcohol brand advertised by an under 25-year-old, unauthorised health claims about a food supplement, a travel company lying about the impact of its holidays on the environment, or a social media crook posing as “The Tax Hero” to rob you of your money – it’s still the wild west on the internet.

ArrDee, for example, is a successful rapper who just appeared at Radio 1’s Big Weekend. He has 1.7m followers on TikTok and 1.1m on Instagram, yet he is only 20 years old and promoting his own brand of rum (Litty Liquor) on social media, even though the ASA rules clearly state that nobody in an alcohol ad can even look under 25 years of age. He clearly didn’t check.

The ASA is making valiant attempts to police the territory, and last year harnessed the mighty power of AI to enhance its monitoring capabilities. The AI examines trends, finds dodgy influencers, and hones in on unlabelled marketing content, capturing and analysing around 20,000 suspicious Instagram stories every month – which is probably just the tip of the iceberg.

As far back as 1995, the ASA began monitoring digital media advertising, expanding in 2010 to cover marketers’ own websites and other spaces under their control, like Facebook and Twitter.

But it’s a tough job to keep the tech giants and the scammers at bay, as the government’s repeated attempts at an online safety bill demonstrate. Never mind the mind boggling prospect of AI regulation.

At least the ASA is still fighting the good fight.

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