A Paddy Power advertisement about the Oscar Pistorius trial is the most complained about advertisement of 2014. The Advertising Standards Authority (‘the ASA’) has upheld a number of complaints against it.
The ASA is the UK’s independent regulator of advertising across all media. It applies the Advertising Codes which are written by the Committees of Advertising Practice and often known as the CAP Codes as a result. The ASA deal with complaints from the public and also proactively across a wide-range of advertisements including websites and promotional emails. The CAP Codes lay down the rules for advertisers, agencies and media owners. They cover all forms of non-broadcast advertising including online advertising.
The Codes say that advertisements should be legal, decent, honest and truthful and should be prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and society. The ASA publishes its adjudications every week. The negative publicity that can occur after having a complaint upheld by the ASA can be the most damaging aspect to companies. The ASA can also refer advertisers to bodies such as Trading Standards or Ofcom.
The ASA have said the three most complained about advertisements ever appeared in 2014. They have said that this reflects the rise of social media which has allowed people to “lodge complaints en masse.” An advertisement by Paddy Power was the most complained about advertisement in 2014 with 5,525 complaints. The advertisement in the national press featured the face of Oscar Pistorius on a gold Oscar statuette under the words “It’s Oscar time”. The caption below said “money back if he walks”. The ASA felt that the advertisement caused serious offence by trivialising issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and a disability.
A Sun newspaper email advertisement received 1,711 complaints which made it the third most complained about ad of 2014. The advertisement was an email sent to subscribers of a fantasy football competition featuring a prize draw to win a date with a Page 3 glamour model. The ASA upheld complaints that the advertisement was offensive and irresponsible for presenting women as objects to be won in a draw.
Other complaints were upheld against Must Have Ltd. trading as VIP Electronic Cigarettes. The complaints said the advertisements glamorised and promoted the use of tobacco products. This was the seventh most complained about advertisement of 2014. The ASA did not uphold the complaints about glamorisation, but did rule that the advertisements depicted the products being exhaled in a way that created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.
Companies must comply with the CAP Codes. The volume of complaints is on the increase and the ASA will investigate on just one complaint. A number of its recent adjudications including the adjudication against American Apparel have had just one complainant. Complaints that are responded to and dealt with in the correct way can often be resolved at an early stage.
Our recent podcast on the American Apparel case is here.
Cordery advise on marketing and advertising compliance issues. We provide assistance and advice on dealing with ASA complaints. One of our team is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and we have considerable experience in this area. There are details of our work in Brand, Retail & Fashion here and details of the training that we offer in this and other compliance topics here.
Jonathan Armstrong, Cordery, Lexis House, 30 Farringdon Street, London, EC4A 4HH
Office: +44 (0)207 075 1784