'˜Advertiser owned ads' account for one in three complaints

Online videos and social media adverts comissioned by companies to promote their goods accounted for one in three complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority last year.

The watchdog said that 88 per cent of “advertiser owned ads” - claims made on individual websites and social media spaces by manufacturers without being clearly marked as promotional material - concerned potentially misleading ads, compared to just 71 per cent of cases overall.

A total of 4,824 ads overall were changed or withdrawn as a result of action taken by the ASA and the Committee of Advertising Practice, according to an annual snapshot of the industry published today.

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The report also revealed that the number of general adverts in regional and local press was down by 29 per cent, while complaints about TV ads rose by 15 per cent. However, the organisation said it did not investigate more than 23,000 complaints due to them being considered to be outside of the ASA’s remit - or if the subject of the query obviously does not break the Advertising Code.

The ASA took over responsibility for advertiser owned ads, such as videos posted by companies on YouTube in 2011. It has since made a number of landmark rulings, including banning a video made by confectionary firm Oreo for not telling viewers clearly that it was an advert and Electronic Healing, an alternative therapy provider, which was last year successfully prosecuted by Trading Standards following the ASA’s referral after upholding complaints about misleading efficacy claims on their website.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, said: “People who told us that they were happy to accept more contentious content if they went to a more controversial website, but they expected advertising to be honest and truthful wherever it appeared.”

He added: “We now encounter messages from brands and organisations on websites, on social media platforms, in vlogs, blogs, postings and tweets and even in sponsored online articles. Despite the rapid technological change, one thing has remained constant: we expect to be able to trust every ad we see or hear.

“Of course most stick to the rules, but we’re adapting to the increasingly interconnected world in which we live to tackle those that don’t.”

The report revealed that a total of eight websites were taken down over the welve month period as a result of breaching regulations.