Complaints to the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for the first half of 2017 have been released this week. These figures highlight that the advertising industry still has a long way to go in its ethics.
The ASA figures show that TV continues to be the most complained about advertising medium with 5,127 complaints about 2,272 ads. Online ads are a close second (4,062 complaints), with more individual ads (3,852) complained about than any other medium.
The most concerning figures, in terms of advertising ethics is that misleading ads continue to prompt the most complaints 8,195 (62%) and represent the bulk of the ASA’s workload (accounting for 76% of cases).
Interestingly there’s still a large difference between what is most complained about dependent on the mediums. On TV 3,439 incidents of offense were reported compared to only 1,677 complaints of misleading material. Online, however is massively different with only 360 reports related to offence and 3,673 about misleading material. It can be supposed that tighter regulations on the honest of TV ads may account for this. It is also important to notice that a large percentage of the complaints of offense were from one ad by moneysupermarket that got over 25% of the complaints.
It is concerning, however that so many ads are still being flagged up as misleading. More advertisers and marketing people need to realise the importance and power of ethics within the industry. In general, the world is becoming more aware of ethics within their shopping basket, from environmental issues and recycling to sustainability of food stuffs and fair trade style agreements. Marketing and Advertising need to take this to heart and one of the easiest things that they can do is to be honest. Honesty in advertising will become more and more important and I feel that maybe its time marketers and advertisers came under more scrutiny.
The whole Bell Pottinger debacle showed that there is a need for companies to be more ethical and I hope this will be the beginning of something which might help change the industry.
As marketers we need to do better, I know there are ethical marketing charters in existence but I wonder if it’s time for something different, something industry wide that will help change practices and make us more ethical as an industry, that can only help us as it will engender greater trust. These results should be a wake up call that we need to work harder and better to be perceived as a more honest industry.