The Annual Report 2016
reveals how our work has changed and how ASA adapted to a fast changing advertising landscape where nearly half of the work now involves regulating online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads , material that just five years ago wasn’t covered by
2016 marked the five year anniversary of the ASA and CAP extending the advertising rules to cover companies’ and other organisations’ own ad claims on their own websites and social media spaces, for example on You Tube, Facebook and
Twitter. The Annual Report reveals the impact of that change. In the last five years:
The ASA has resolved 41,383 complaints about 36,872 online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads
Those ads accounted for 1 in 3 complained about to the ASA
88% of complaints about online ‘advertiser-owned’ ads were about misleadingness, compared to 73% for complaints across all media.
The report highlights the regulatory challenges the changing advertising landscape poses, with the lines between offline and online and between paid-for, ‘owned’ and ‘earned’ advertising becoming increasingly blurred. And the
report shows how technological change has influenced the ASA’s strategy to have more impact and be more proactive.
Key figures for 2016 included:
The ASA resolved 28,521 complaints about 16,999 ads
4,824 ads were changed or withdrawn as a result of ASA and CAP action (a record year and a 5% increase on 2015)
CAP delivered 281,061 pieces of training and advice to industry to help companies and organisations get their ads right (another record year and a 10% increase on 2015)
The ASA and CAP delivered strong enforcement, with 8 websites taken down, one successful prosecution of an alternative therapy provider following referral to our legal backstop, Trading Standards, and two arrests pending prosecution
A video ad on the online drinks retailer 31Dover.com's website and on Youtube, seen in February 2017, opened on a blurred background and title text The Karma Shotra appeared. Bar paraphernalia including glasses, bottles and a variety of alcohol
products were then shown with doodle drawings such as arms and faces overlaid on them. These characters were shown smiling and touching each other in a sexual manner. Subtitles appeared throughout such as The Cork Screw and The Rim Job ,
each followed by the characters engaging in sexual activity.
Two complainants, who believed the ad strongly linked alcohol to seduction, sexual activity and sexual success, objected that the ad was socially irresponsible and breached the Code.
ASA Assessment: Complaints upheld
The ASA considered that the video as featured on the advertiser's own website and on their YouTube channel was an ad which fell within the remit of the CAP Code. The video featured alcohol products and referred throughout to the website URL where
products could be purchased and was therefore clearly directly connected with the supply or transfer of goods and services provided by 31Dover.com.
We considered that the ad strongly linked alcohol to sexual activity. The ad plainly features sexual innuendo, sexual references and sexual activity in association with the promotion of alcohol products and 31Dover.com. We did not consider that because
there was no human and alcohol interaction and there were no specific alcohol products or brands featured that this impression would have been eclipsed. Because the ad linked alcohol with sexual activity, we concluded it was socially irresponsible and
breached the code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 18.1 18.1 Marketing communications must be socially responsible and must contain nothing that is likely to lead people to adopt styles of drinking that are unwise. For example, they should not encourage
excessive drinking. Care should be taken not to exploit the young, the immature or those who are mentally or socially vulnerable. and 18.5 18.5 Marketing communications must neither link alcohol with seduction, sexual activity or sexual success nor imply
that alcohol can enhance attractiveness. (Alcohol).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told 31Dover.com to prepare future advertising in a socially responsible way and not to link alcohol to sexual activity in their future marketing communications.
An email from Selfridges, seen in January 2017, showed a model standing side on in a long blue dress.
A complainant, who believed the model looked unhealthily thin, challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible.
ASA Assessment: Complaint not upheld
The ASA acknowledged that while the image did emphasise the model's slenderness through pose and the style of clothing, she appeared to be in proportion. We considered most people, including young children and women, would interpret the ad as focusing on
the design and fit of the dress, rather than on desirable body image. We considered that, although the model was slim, she did not appear to be unhealthily thin or significantly underweight and therefore concluded that the ad was not irresponsible.
An ad on the advertiser's YouTube channel, seen in December 2016, for the mobile game app Mobile Strike , featured two women wearing bikinis and sitting on sun-loungers. They were playing the game on their phones. In another scene, shot in
slow motion, a third woman, who was wearing a swimsuit, was seen walking down a path towards them and also playing the game on her mobile phone. As she approached, she flicked her hair back from her face and then stopped and looked into the camera. In
the final scene, she approached the other two women and stood with one hand on her hip whilst looking and smiling at the two other women.
The complainant challenged whether the ad was offensive, because they believed it objectified women.
Machine Zone Inc explained that their mobile app game Mobile Strike, was a modern military-themed combat game where players could battle against other players. One important feature of the game was that it could be played on mobile devices, the game was
therefore portable and could be played anywhere. They believed the juxtaposition between what people normally did by the pool (i.e. relax and lounge) with the visuals of the players battling it out with jets and tanks was what made the ad so striking.
That theme was used in other ads for the game -- for example, players battling one another in cafes, restaurants and the launderette. The intention was to show that the Mobile Strike game could liven up a player's time spent in everyday, sometimes
They did not believe the ad objectified women. They said that because of the setting, the women were wearing bathing suits. The intention was to feature real-sized women and reference mythical warrior women like Amazons and Wonder Woman ,
as the women were seen making strategic moves in battle against one another. They said they had concerns that the complainant's objection was the size of the women featured rather than what they were wearing or doing in the ad. They suspected that had
the women been typically thin models seen in ads, it was unlikely that a complaint would have been made. They had decided to feature real-sized women as a nod to their diverse player base.
They said they had run the ad globally for a number of months and had not received any other complaints about it. In fact, they said they had received considerable support from their players for featuring real-sized women in their ad, as they were often
YouTube said the ad did not violate their Community Guidelines or Advertising Policies. They said the ad had been served through AdWords, a self-administered system and it was the advertiser's responsibility to choose appropriate targeting of their ads,
as well as to abide by applicable law and regulations, including the CAP Code.
ASA Assessment. Complaint Upheld
The ASA noted that the images of the women wearing swimwear bore no relation to the product being advertised -- a combat-themed mobile game app. We also noted that in some of the scenes, the mannerisms of the women were seductive or sexually-charged. For
example, in one scene, a woman wearing a thong bikini was seen walking towards a sun lounger and the camera angle was taken from below and behind so that as she walked into the scene, only her legs and her thong bikini bottoms were in view. We noted that
another scene featuring one of the women wearing a swimsuit was shot in slow motion, and the emphasis was on her body rather than the mobile game app she was playing. One of the camera angles was shot side-on which highlighted her waist and chest. As she
approached the camera, she flicked her hair back, stopped and looked seductively into the camera. We noted that the ad featured plus-sized models but we considered that fact was irrelevant. For those reasons, we considered that the ad objectified women
and was therefore offensive.
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Machine Zone Inc to ensure that its ads in future did not objectify women and cause offence.
The Advertising Standards Authority Chairman, Chris Smith, has announced the appointment of four new Council members -- Neil Stevenson, Tracey Follows, Tess Alps and Nita Patel. The Council is the body responsible for deciding if an ad has broken the
advertising rules. It also operates as the Board of the ASA.
The Council is formed of 13 members of whom two-thirds are independent of industry. The remaining third have a recent, or current, knowledge of the advertising or media sector.
New Council members will begin their terms in April 2017, with the exception of Ms Patel, who will commence her term in April 2018. The new appointments will be replacing Sir Martin Narey, Ray Gallagher and Hamish Pringle, who have all come to the end of
their terms on the Council.
Tracey Follows is Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at The Future Laboratory. She has 20 years' experience in advertising; agency side at Cogent, McCanns, Lowe and VCCP, rising to CSO at J Walter Thompson; and client side as International Advertising
Manager at T-Mobile and Head of Consumer Communications at BT.
Tess Alps is the Chair of Thinkbox and was its first CEO. She is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society, a member of BAFTA and currently sits on the corporate board of The Royal Academy of Arts. Her advertising background includes ITV companies
Television South-West, Yorkshire TV and Tyne-Tees TV and thirteen years as a director of PHD Media, latterly as Chair.
Neil Stevenson is the Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission. He currently sits on the Board of the General Dental Council and is Chair of its Remuneration Committee. His past experience includes 11 years at the Law Society of
Scotland and being a founder Director of the Scottish Arbitration Centre. He has a keen interest in equality, and for five years was a member of the advisory group on diversity to the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.
Nita Patel is a Corporate Communications and Sustainability specialist. Through her business Planet Communications, she has worked with a number of well-known companies helping develop and deliver their sustainability communications. She is also the
co-founder of new coffee shop and co-working space, CAYA, providing a multi-purpose venue for freelancers and nomad workers to eat, work and share space in a flexible fashion. This is her first Board position.