In a recent speech new ASA Chair Lord Borrie lashed out at the disproportionate ASA resources spent on adjudicating complaints by companies over their competitors’ advertising. Does he have a secret agenda for intra industry ad complaints?
Topic: Self regulation
Who: Lord Borrie QC, ASA Chair
Where: The Incorporated Society of British Advertisers Annual Conference
When: March 2001
The recently installed new Chair of the Advertising Standards Authority, Lord Borrie QC spoke at the ISBA annual conference of the challenges the ASA faced in the new century. He pointed out the exponential increase in complaints handled by the ASA in respect of Internet advertising. This, despite the recent narrowing of the ASA’s remit in this sector to banners, pop-ups, commercial e-mail and on-line promotions. Complaints here had risen from 8 in 1996, to 500 in 2000 and were clearly set to rise still higher.
In a wider context, Lord Borrie bemoaned the level of intra industry advertising disputes which the ASA was now handling. Ten per cent of complaints now handled by the ASA were by advertisers against ads by their competitors, and processing these complaints took up much more than a tenth of the ASA’s resources. This was because intra industry cases were far more likely to require use of outside experts and appeals to the independent reviewer.
The ASA Chair questioned whether this was the best use of the ASA’s limited resources. He urged the industry to walk the self regulation talk by making it effective within their own businesses. If this happened, ads would be more likely to follow the Codes in the first place and the ASA would be less likely to be "hi-jacked in support of somebody’s marketing strategy."
Why this matters:
Lord Borrie asked for self restraint so that today’s system had the best chance of surviving. Clearly advertiser rivalry consumes a disproportionate level of ASA resources, not assisted by the Human Rights Convention’s incorporation into English law and the UK Courts vitually washing their hands of involvement in intra-industry ad disputes. This and the greater incidence of court challenges to ASA decisions have led to a noticeable increase in the length of ASA case reports in cases such as the long running Dyson/Hoover spat. The latest case in this saga required the ASA to consider no less than ten separate complaints in respect of just one advertisement. How far away is a breakaway, separately-financed tribunal for intra industry ad complaints?