Just 7% of public grievances on adverts upheld

Consumers take aim at almost 1,000 commericals – travel and holiday sector top list

Most complaints (73%) were made on the basis that an advert was taken to be misleading. File photograph: Getty

Most complaints (73%) were made on the basis that an advert was taken to be misleading. File photograph: Getty


Irish consumers complained about almost 1,000 advertisements of various kinds throughout 2021 but the watchdog upheld just 7 per cent of all objections.

The Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland published its annual report on Wednesday. And it noted that people were far most likely to complain when they felt an advert was misleading, with the travel and holiday industry proving the most likely to provoke them.

That sector attracted 207 complaints, the highest, followed by “leisure” advertisements (151 complaints) and those relating to household products (151).

In a year when consumer behaviour began to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions, other areas that attracted ire included telecommunications, food and beverages, clothing, finance and motoring, from an overall list of 20 categories.

While health and beauty was the greatest source of consumer annoyance in 2020, complaints dropped by 60 per cent last year.

In total, the authority received 1,450 written complaints concerning 959 advertisements. It found 68, or 7 per cent, to be in breach of its code, designed to ensure commercial marketing communications are “legal, decent, honest and truthful”.

Despite the high level of individual complaints, they represented a 12 per cent reduction on those received in 2020.

Most (73 per cent) were made on the basis that an advert was taken to be misleading, while 9 per cent were on the basis of being found offensive.

What about influencers?

Digital media was the space that attracted the highest number of complaints (696), representing 48 per cent of all such contacts with the authority. Of these, 77 related to influencer-marketing advertisements.

Complaints relating to broadcast media, including both TV and radio, were 603. Outdoor media attracted 67 complaints, an increase of almost 50 per cent on 2020.

The authority’s remit takes in commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital (online banners, websites and social platforms), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets and brochures, and direct marketing.

It offers advertisers, agencies, media and promoters confidential and non-binding advice on whether their proposed marketing conforms to its code. Last year there were 117 requests from advertisers, agencies and media for such advice, a 2 per cent increase.

Last year, the watchdog stated its support for a forthcoming media commission which will oversee a regulatory framework for online platforms. But it said it does not believe any one regulator could apply an effective advertising complaints mechanism and that European entities such as the authority should have a role.

The authority continued its engagement with influencer marketing and carried out research that showed continuing concerns about transparency.