Ads for telecoms companies generated the most complaints in 2016

Ireland’s advertising watchdog says complaints increased 8% to 1,329 last year

Budweiser’s use of UFC fighter Conor McGregor in its “Dream Big” competition was one of the ads to receive a ‘cease running’ instruction from the ASAI in 2016.

Budweiser’s use of UFC fighter Conor McGregor in its “Dream Big” competition was one of the ads to receive a ‘cease running’ instruction from the ASAI in 2016.

 

Ireland’s advertising watchdog received 1,329 complaints in relation to 1,011 advertisements in 2016, a rise of 8 per cent on the year before, it said.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI), a self-regulating industry body, ruled that 102 or about 10 per cent of those ads were in breach of its code of standards.

Two-thirds of complaints were on the grounds that the ad was misleading, while 12 per cent were made on the basis that the ad was offensive.

Telecommunications companies attracted the most complaints by sector with a combined tally of 248 complaints.

Eir, Vodafone, Three Ireland and Virgin Media all had complaints upheld against their advertisements during 2016.

Leisure sector ads generated 159 complaints, while food and non-alcohol drinks ads prompted 126 complaints and ads for household goods gave rise to 125 complaints.

Health and beauty, a recent area of focus for the ASAI due to the volume of misleading claims and rise of “influencer” marketing, generated 110 complaints. Motoring was next with 99, ahead of travel/holidays with 78, the financial sector with 67 and alcohol with 27.

Compliance

Digital advertising was the medium that gave rise to the highest number of complaints, generating 586 during the year. Television and radio ads triggered 354 complaints, while out-of-home advertising was third with 118 complaints.

“The engagement with the ASAI and compliance with the adjudication of the independent complaints committee, demonstrates that advertisers in Ireland are completely on board with the ASAI in our bid to protect consumers and ensure the highest standards of advertising and marketing communications,” said chief executive Orla Twomey.

The ASAI resolved 1,376 complaints during the year, up 16 per cent, according to its annual report, with some of these complaints having been submitted the previous year.

The ASAI’s code aims to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are “legal, decent, honest and truthful”.

Competition

The main sanction available to the body is that it can order advertisers to cease running a particular ad in the same format.

Budweiser’s use of UFC fighter Conor McGregor in its “Dream Big” competition was one of the ads to receive such an instruction from the ASAI in 2016. The complaints committee agreed that the ad contravened a part of the code that states that alcohol advertising should not use “identifiable heroes or heroines of the young”. RTÉ had already refused to run the ad.

In another high-profile case last year, complaints against a string of advertisements for Sprite were upheld after sexist lines such as “she’s seen more ceilings... than Michelangelo” were found to have caused grave offence.