Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 29 April 2021
Law stated as at: 29 April 2021
The ASA has released its 2020 Annual Report. For the ASA, 2020 was all about keeping people safe, in particular, young and vulnerable people.
The Annual Report sets out the ASA’s work and priorities during 2020, which include:
1. body image:
a. publishing a consultation on banning ads for cosmetic interventions that target under 18s; and
b. investigating and publishing rulings on prescription-only weigh loss injectables with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency;
2. financial detriment:
a. ruling on social media posts by influencers that promoted Klarna, a buy now, pay later scheme;
b. CAP published guidance on advertising delayed payment services and gave advertisers a deadline of 2 March 2021 to amend their ads;
c. ruling against five debt advice solution companies (and the ASA intends to continue focusing on misleading online advertising for unregulated financial products); and
d. launching its Scam Ad Alert system;
3. protecting children:
a. continuing to use avatars and investigated whether children are being served targeted ads for restricted products (such as gambling, alcohol and food and drinks high in fat, salt and/or sugar);
b. using monitoring tools on children’s websites and on-demand video channels;
c. launching a consultation in October on the content of gambling ads to reduce the appeal to under 18s (the outcome of this is expected in mid-2021); and
d. launching a public consultation to apply advertising rules to in-game purchases and loot boxes (this guidance is expected later in 2021);
4. wider societal harms:
a. undertaking a review on past ASA decisions on race and ethnicity, which has led to a major piece of research to help address and prevent harmful racial and ethnic stereotypes in advertising; and
b. launching its Climate Change and the Environment project to review the effectiveness of its green claim rules and working with the Competition and Markets Authority to develop further advice and guidance (and the ASA itself is committed to becoming carbon net zero by 2030);
5. working with online platforms:
a. increasing transparency and accountability online by continuing to work with the government and online advertising industry;
b. investing in data science, including working on a scam-ad predictor model; and
c. enforcing ad-labelling rules on social media, including monitoring over 24,000 stories on a social media platform; and
6. Covid-19: banning ads for vitamin injections, intravenous drips and face masks making misleading Covid-19 or health claims.
The number of complaints for different advertising formats reflected a population at home. In particular:
1. online complaints increased by 4% and made up almost half of all complaints;
2. television complaints increased by 43% but only made up one-fifth of all complaints; and
3. outdoor advertising complaints decreased by 56%.
Complaints about influencers decreased by 8% but still made up almost a quarter of all online cases.
Finally, there was a 40% increase in complaints about health and beauty ads, which led to this sector having the most ads withdrawn or amended.
The most complained about ad
Ryanair’s ‘jab and go’ ad was the most complained about ad for 2020. The ad received 2,371 complaints, which makes it the third most complained about ad of all time.
Why this matters:
As always, advertising regulation has been applied on a case-by-case basis depending on the context of the complaint. As such, the ASA’s Annual Report is a useful resource for brands and advertisers to understand the ASA’s priorities and key objectives from the previous and for the current year. This understanding can help brands and advertisers understand the latest key risks and focus of the regulator, which in turn can help develop and ensure that any upcoming advertising campaigns remain compliant.
For more information, you can read the ASA’s Annual Report here.