Advertising watchdog ASA tests hard-hitting campaign on Scots

Scotland is to be used as a test area for a major marketing campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the Advertising Standards Authority in a bid to crack down harder on unscrupulous advertisers.

The Irn-Bru advert was accused of crudity

The ASA said it is working with the Leith Agency in Edinburgh to create a hard-hitting campaign which will initially target Scottish consumers but will ultimately be rolled out across the UK.

The campaign will run alongside an investigation to pinpoint what benefits consumers get from having an advertising watchdog and how attitudes in Scotland differ from the rest of the UK.

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The watchdog also revealed figures which show that the number of complaints about ads from Scots rose by 51 per cent last year to 2,524, while the proportion of complaints coming from Scotland – previously an under-represented area – had risen to 7.5 per cent from 6.8 per cent the previous year. Of those, over half of the ads were seen online rather than on TV or a billboard.

The advert which attracted most complaints in Scotland was Irn-Bru’s Don’t Be A Can’t advert – also created by the Leith Agency – which depicts a man meeting his girlfriend’s family for the first time. It attracted 48 complaints relating to claims that it referenced a crude swear word, but the complaints were not upheld by the ASA.

Guy Parker, chief executive of the ASA, told Scotland on Sunday that the ad campaign, due to be launched later this year, would run in Scotland alone for several months.

He said: “One of the things we want to do is use Scotland as a test case to see if we can measure the impact of such a campaign on having an advertising regulator and what comfort that gives [members of the public].”

Parker said that the organisation is preparing to monitor the use of ads seen by children on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The use of new “avatar” technology, as revealed in Scotland on Sunday last year, is already being used by the ASA to replicate profiles of young internet users and monitor how often they are exposed to illegal adverts such as those for gambling or alcohol products. However, it does not extend to the “logged in” environment, such as social media sites, which require permission for “fake” accounts, such as those used by the ASA on non-logged in sites, to be set up.

“That is something we are going to look at moving on soon,” said Parker. “The real benefit of doing all of this is that it is a deterrent. It sends a message that we are proactively monitoring this stuff and if companies don’t have systems in place to prevent this happening, then they will get found out.”