The Advertising Standards Authority’s report on the year 2000 contains the usual heady mix of statistics, but what messages are in the Financial Report tucked away at the back?
Topic: Self regulation
Who: Advertising Standards Authority
When: April 2001
The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") operates the UK’s highly regarded self regulatory system for print, on-line and cinema advertising in conjunction with the Committee of Advertising Practice. It recently published its report for the year 2000. Amongst the statistics, one of only a few downward movements was in the total number of advertisements complained about, down from 8617 in 1999 to 8547 in 2000. Most other numbers were up, including the ASA’s profit (or in this context "excess of income over expenditure") for the year, increasing from £20,456 to £23,982. Evidently another beneficiary of the dotcom advertising boom by way of the 0.01% levy on the cost of virtually all UK print and cinema advertising, the ASA paid the price at the other end of the process by having to handle an exponential increase from 108 in 1999 to 500 complaints in 2000 about internet advertising. Another eye-watering increase was in legal fees, which exceeded budget by £56,000 and contributed to a year on year rise from £163,422 to £267,550 in "Consultancy and professional fees". A chunk of these fees will return by way of orders that advertisers unsuccessfully challenging ASA decisions in the courts pay the ASA’s fees. Nevertheless the statistic is a reminder of the increased resources the ASA is having to devote to fighting challenges to its decisions on judicial review/human rights grounds.
The consultancy fee figure also reflects a factor highlighted by ASA Chair Sir Gordon Borrie in a recent speech, reported elsewhere here on marketinglaw.co.uk. The increased number and complexity of intra industry complaints by advertisers’ competitors necessitates greater expenditure on outside experts to advise on disputed technical claims.
Why this matters:
The ASA has recently undergone two major changes in senior personnel, with Chris Graham replacing Matti Alderson as Director General and Sir Gordon Borrie succeeding Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank as Chair. The smooth introduction of on-line complaint reports and launch of the Admark on-line advertising scheme suggest, however, that the new team are a formidable pairing.