The number of complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority by Scottish consumers has fallen by more than 10 per cent over the past year, new figures have revealed, as the watchdog unveiled a push for a stronger presence north of the Border.
Chairman Lord Chris Smith of Finsbury revealed the drop in Scottish complaints from 2,208 to 2,000 as the ASA’s Advertising Standards Authority Council met in Edinburgh last week for its first meeting outside of London in response to the growing need for more focus on Scottish issues.
The ASA recently appointed a senior member of staff, Scottish affairs lead Shabnum Mustapha, to head operations north of the Border for the first time, while the ASA Council boasts Scot Roisin Donnelly, brand director at Procter and Gamble, among its 12 members.
Lord Smith said that Scottish complaints total just 6 per cent of total gripes UK-wide compared with Scots making up 8 per cent of the UK population.
“Obviously, I hope it is the fact that Scots are less whinging than, say, people who live in Tunbridge Wells,” he said.
“But what we want to make sure is that people in Scotland do know about the ASA and are happy to make complaints when necessary.”
He added: “This will definitely be ongoing work because there are increasing numbers of issues where there is a distinctive Scottish perspective emerging.”
He added: “We want to raise our profile a bit and say to people in Scotland that we are here and we take our job seriously and make sure advertisers are responsible – and ban any adverts that are not.”
Around half of the ASA’s work is dedicated to regulating online adverts, with the rest published in traditional media.
Responsibility for online ads was transferred to the ASA six years ago. Meanwhile, claims made on social media, if someone writing about a product on Facebook or Twitter is being paid by a commercial company, also fall under the ASA’s jurisdiction.
Earlier this month, it fell to the ASA to investigate tweets made by Noel Edmonds claiming that a product used for electromagnetic pulse therapy could “tackle cancer”.
If it turned out he was paid for the plug, either in cash or in the form of goods, he could be found to be in breach of the CAP code – the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing.
“We are still investigating, but it looks at the moment like Mr Edmonds was not paid in any way, in which case he is not in breach of any rules,” Lord Smith told Scotland on Sunday.
Recent adverts in Scotland which have prompted a flurry of complaints and sparked action from the ASA include an anti-wind farm ad taken out by Donald Trump in a local newspaper, which depicted a wind farm not in Scotland, but in California as well as a Scottish Government advert which was banned for claiming that Edinburgh Zoo’s pandas were a “gift” for the Scottish people, when they are actually on loan from China.