The internet has overtaken television as the most complained-about advertising medium in the UK, with a surge of 35% in the number of consumers registering concerns over digital campaigns last year.
The Advertising Standards Authority said that the total number of complaints about all UK advertising rose by a fifth last year to a record 37,073 complaints.
Guy Parker, the ASA chief executive, said this was because of the rise in the use of social media to galvanise consumers into complaining.
“Although we received our highest ever number of complaints last year that is not the full story,” said Parker. “Social media platforms helped mobilise mass complaints about a small handful of controversial ads.”
The record number of complaints was fuelled by Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorious press ad offering “money back if he walks”. It was the most complained-about ad of last year, with 5,525 people voicing concern.
Meanwhile, the Sun’s “Win a Date with a Page 3 Model” competition was the third most complained-about ad with 1,711.
The biggest area of growth in complaints was the internet with a 35% surge in the number received about online ad campaigns, a rise of almost 3,500 to 13,477.
Television commercials attracted 11,926 complaints, a drop of 10% year on year.
Consumers complained about just over 10,000 different internet ads, more than twice the number of TV ads (4,700).
Complaints about internet marketing have grown dramatically in recent years in line with a significant extension in the ASA’s remit in 2011 to include investigating marketing messages on a media owners’ websites – not just internet ad campaigns.
Parker said that while complaints have hit a record high the number of ads that prompted complainants to contact the regulator fell 8.4% from 18,580 to 17,002.
In addition, advertisers are showing that they are aware of the UK code with the number of campaigns that had to be ditched or changed to comply dropping 16% to 3,384.
Parker said that the ASA gave almost 200,000 pieces of advice and training to help advertisers “get their ads right in the first place”.
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