ASA places more focus on consumer protection

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) has hit a new high with the number of withdrawn or amended ads, as revealed in a newly published annual report.

Online advertisements have outnumbered television adverts by almost three to one. While new projects to be undertaken by both organisations, as part of a new five year strategy, are also outlined, stressing a focus of increasing its online impacts.

Guy Parker, ASA chief executive, commented: “It’s been a busy year, largely driven by complaints and cases about online ads. That’s why our new five-year strategy is focused on strengthening further the regulation of online advertising, and using new tech to protect the public.

“Our recent use of new avatar technology is a taste of what’s to come under the new strategy, and we look forward to working with our partners to increase further the impact we’re having online.”

Analysing its annual data figures,  the ASA revealed it has resolved 33,727 issues about 25,259 ads, of those 16,059 complaints (a 4 per cent jump on 2017) were about 14,257 online ads (a 38 per cent increase), with 10,773 complaints (a 14 per cent rise) about 5,748 TV ads (increasing 23 per cent).

CAP, which oversees the writing of advertisements and maintaining UK advertising codes, delivered 535,478 pieces of advice and training to businesses to help them get their ads right, up 38 per cent year-on-year.

Reviews were carried out into the number of actions taken to tackle consumer harms and to protect the financially vulnerable, including new guidance on gambling ads to responsibly protect under-18s and rules regarding superimposed text and parcel delivery changes.

Amongst steps already undertaken to strengthen the regulation of online advertising, the ASA recently introduced child avatars, designed to simulate children’s browsing activity – to identify ads that children see online.

An extension of the technology is planned, as is research into further new technologies to help better protect the public, as the ASA states that its avatar efforts have seen ads from five gambling operators banned thus far.

Furthermore, ‘more impact online’ is a new initiative to be brought forward as a direct result of the increasing online habits of individuals, with businesses increasingly targeting internet advertising, as technological developments also continue apace.

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