Following on from a record-breaking year in 2014 (in terms of number of complaints received from members of the public), it has been yet another busy year for the ASA. The total number of complaints it received in 2015 has yet to be disclosed, but the ASA has published its "Top 10" most complained about adverts for 2015.
Unlike 2014, which saw Paddy Power receive a record-breaking 5,525 complaints for its "Oscar Pistorius Advert", the figures (for complaints received in respect of the most complained about ads in 2015) are more modest. Yet, as in 2014, it is established reputable companies that dominate the ASA's "Top 10" list.
The predominant reason behind the complaints (in respect of the cases below) is that the adverts caused "harm and offence". Interestingly, however, the ASA notes that, despite this being the case, 75 per cent of its caseload is dominated by complaints about misleading adverts.
Click here to view table.
As can be seen above, the number of complaints received does not appear to be a key consideration for the ASA when deciding whether a complaint should be upheld (as only one of the "Top 10" most complained about adverts was found to breach the Cap Code). In its deliberations, the ASA will consider a number of other factors including: audience, context, standards in society and medium.
As is often the case, advertisers need to strike the right balance between high-impact effective advertisements and compliance with the Cap Code. Many of the most memorable adverts are controversial (and we are sure that in the list above readers will remember some of the adverts for exactly this reason). However, despite not being in breach of the Cap Code, the fact that hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of complaints are received in respect of an advert can have an adverse effect on the reputation of a company and can involve a company spending many hours responding to complaints. However, in the case of Booking.com, the company clearly felt that its advert and marketing messages offset any bad publicity because it repeated the adverts in various different forms. 2015 (in respect of cases above) appears to have been a year in which the advertisers got it right; however, over the coming weeks we will discover through the ASA's Annual Report further details regarding total number of complaints and how the advertising industry performed as a whole.