Internet ad complaints poised to overtake TV: UK advertising regulator

The internet is close to overtaking television as the most complained-about advertising medium in the UK, with the number of numbers of consumers registering concerns over digital campaigns surging almost 300 per cent to over 10,000 last year. 

According to the Advertising Standards Authority – the body responsible for investigating consumer complaints into advertising content, there was a 25-per cent year-on-year increase in the total number of complaints overall in UK advertising in 2011 to a record 31,458.

However, the maximum number of complaints were received about the internet, with a 282 per cent surge in the number received  between 2010 and 2011, rising to 10,123. The number of internet ads consumers complained about also rose steeply, by 300 per cent year-on-year, to 9,295.

The quantum jump puts internet advertising a whisker behind the most complained about media, TV, which saw a 20 per cent year-on-year decline in complaints last year to 11,245, relating to 5,556 commercials.

The main reason behind the surge in internet advertising complaints is the widening of the ASA's remit to include investigations into marketing messages on a media owner's own website, according to analysts. Included in this are offers made directly by an airline, retailer or telecoms company, as also the marketing claims made by food brands and soft drink makers.

Consequently,  the number of advertising and marketing campaigns that had to be dropped or changed to comply with the advertising code more than doubled to 4,591, while the total number of different ads complained about were up 71 per cent year-on-year to 22,397.