Archive for the ‘ASA’ tag

Why do advertisers get more complaints than the press?

without comments

This is a guest post from Matthew Cain who is leading the work of the independent press review group:

The Advertising Standards Authority published its annual report today. It revealed that the authority received 26433 complaints about 15,556 adverts, an increase of nine per cent on last year.

The ASA receives far more complaints than the Press Complaints Commission – 463% more. Why is this?

1. The difference is long term
The number of complaints to the ASA is up 9% on last year. The number of complaints to the PCC increased by 8%. The differences in the number of complaints has always been there.

2. It’s not because there are more adverts
The figures to prove this can only be assembled at disproportionate cost. But I don’t believe that more adverts are produced each year than number of articles in the UK press. Just look at the volume of advertising in a typical newspaper in proportion to the number of articles (there were 1870 complaints about advertising in the national press).

3. It’s not because the ASA spends more on advertising
The ASA spent £334,595 on advertising last year that is as much as 270 %the amount the PCC spends (the figures aren’t directly comparable in the annual reports so it could be as little as twice as much) which doesn’t account for 462% more complaints.

4. It’s not because there are more grounds for complaint for an advert
The code of standards in advertising is drawn more widely than the PCC code, to include consideration of whether an advert could “cause offence”. However, the PCC’s 4698 complaints includes those that were rejected for not being within the remit of the PCC. Moreover, the PCC suggests it received only around 10,000 enquiries last year so there are substantially fewer people who are considering complaining about the press.

5. We don’t get more upset by bad advertising
The most complained about advert attracted 840 complaints, compared with the 584 complaints received about the most complained about newspaper article. Therefore, we can conclude that newspaper adverts attract greater motivation to complain.

6. It’s not because people accept a different standard from the press
Our tolerance threshold of advertising does not appear to be significantly lower than our tolerance of the press. The Guardian received 22,500 complaints from its readers in 2008 – almost as many complaints about one newspaper as the whole of the advertising industry.

7. Is it because the ASA is more tough?
The ASA’s work last year led to 2475 ads being changed or withdrawn. The PCC doesn’t publish a comparable figure. The ASA issued 772 formal adjudications compared with the PCC’s 45 so the PCC actually adjudicates on comparably more cases and saw a 40% increase in adjudications, compared with a 27% increase for the ASA.

8. It’s not because the PCC is doing a bad job at ruling on its code
There were 49 requests for a review of an ASA ruling to its internal ombudsman with 8 cases upheld. That compares with 52 complaints to the PCC’s charter commissioner with 5 cases upheld.

So why do you think the ASA receives so many more complaints?

Written by Martin Moore

April 29th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

What the press can learn from advertising

without comments

If you read yesterday’s Media Guardian interview with Chris Smith, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), but replace the ASA with the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), you may – like me – find the piece more interesting for what it says about the shortcomings of the PCC than for what it tells us about the effectiveness of the ASA.

The ASA was originally modelled on the PCC (or Council on the Press as then was), but has since become a very different beast. It has expanded its remit, taken the initiative to do research on specific areas of content, taken account of third party complaints about specific subjects, and targeted companies that regularly flout ASA guidelines. Were the PCC to do the same it might find it has a considerably more positive influence on press standards.

Take coverage of the environment. The ASA has recently taken steps to prevent ‘greenwashing’ – i.e. companies falsely claiming green credits. It has accepted complaints both from NGOs like Friends of the Earth and the general public (the equivalent of ‘third party complainants’ in the eyes of the PCC). It has held seminars to understand public concerns and, when companies have made misleading claims the ASA has not been afraid to single them out for criticism – for example in the case of Royal Dutch Shell.

Why couldn’t the PCC do the same? Were the PCC to act a little more like the ASA it could examine claims, for example, of Islamophobia in the press. It could hold seminars about press coverage to help inform guidance to newspapers. It could take account of complaints by campaigning groups, and members of the public. It could even pick out particularly persistent egregious offenders.

Right now the PCC very rarely conducts research about aspects of news content (social networking and privacy is an interesting exception). Even more infrequently will it seek to prevent news outlets from writing misleading reports (e.g. see coverage of the McCanns and Robert Murat).

It will not accept any complaints from ‘third party complainants’, nor will it necessarily focus on an area of content that has received many complaints. It never (to my knowledge) singles out specific organisations for criticism – as the ASA did in the case of Royal Dutch Shell. Rather it concentrates on individual incidences of individual articles in specific news outlets.

Since their offices are all of 5 minutes walk from one another, the PCC could do worse than wandering down High Holborn to learn a few things from its advertising cousin.

Written by Martin Moore

August 19th, 2008 at 11:50 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , , , , ,