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2018 Annual Report shows significant majority (63%) of complaints were made on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading’

1,682 complaints received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) in 2018 and 72 advertisements found to be in breach of ASAI Code

2018 Annual Report (here) shows significant majority (63%) of complaints were made on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading’


30 April 2019

A total of 1,682 written complaints concerning 1,183 advertisements were received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) last year, according to the organisation’s 2018 Annual Report which was released today. While this represents a 20% decrease on the number of complaints received in 2017, the number of advertisements complained about were 8% higher than in 2017.


The ‘Food & Beverages’ sector attracted the greatest number of complaints (289), followed by ‘Leisure’ (222), ‘Telecommunications’ (192) and ‘Health & Beauty’ while ‘Digital Media’ gave rise to the highest number of complaints by media. The ASAI, which is the independent self-regulatory body committed, in the public interest, to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications, found that 72 advertisements were in breach of the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.


The ASAI Annual Report outlines that 63% of the complaints made in 2018 were on the basis that an advertisement was misleading, while 16% were made on the basis that an advertisement was offensive. There were also a wide range of other issues covered by the ASAI Code that were raised by members of the public, including concerns about alcohol advertising, children, food and non-alcoholic beverages, mobile and broadband advertising and influencers and blogger claims.


The ASAI was established in 1981 and the objective of the ASAI Code is to ensure that all commercial marketing communications are ‘legal, decent, honest and truthful’. The ASAI Code covers commercial marketing communications and sales promotions in all media in Ireland including digital (online banners, websites and social platforms), print, outdoor, radio, TV, leaflets/brochures, and direct marketing.


The ASAI offers advertisers, agencies, media and promoters a copy advice service on whether a proposed marketing communication or sales promotion conforms to the Code. Copy advice is communicated confidentially, is non-binding and is given free of charge. In total, 126 requests from advertisers, advertising agencies and media for copy advice were received in 2018. The number of requests, although lower than those received in 2016, were significantly higher than those received in previous years. The ASAI service serves as an authoritative opinion, given by the Executive but does not bind the ASAI Complaints Committee.


Complaints by sector are as follows, with comparative figures for 2017 and 2016:


SECTOR                                                        2018                2017                2016               

Food & Beverages                                            289                   115                   126

Leisure                                                              222                   130                   159

Telecommunications                                          192                   189                   248

Health & Beauty                                                166                   128                   110

Non-Commercial                                                158                   448                   40

Travel/Holidays                                                 103                   79                     79

Household                                                        100                   96                     124

Motoring                                                           100                   87                     99

Clothing/Footwear                                             79                     33                     33

Financial                                                           76                     101                   67

Business                                                           37                     36                     19

Alcohol                                                             26                     24                     27

TV/Audio/Video                                                 20                     17                     27

Computers                                                        18                     19                     20

Property                                                           17                     30                     22

Publishing                                                         12                     16                     27

Education                                                         11                     12                     15

Agriculture                                                        9                      8                      1

Employment/Business Opportunities                  9                      10                     10

Miscellaneous                                                   103                   228                   122

Total                                                                1,747                1,806                1.375               


In 2018, digital media gave rise to the largest block of complaints, with 948 registered. In 2010, it represented 22% of all complaints, compared to 45% in 2018. Complaints relating to broadcast media (TV and radio combined) totalled 516, while outdoor media attracted 350 complaints.


Complaints by Media are as follows, with comparative figures for 2017 and 2016:


Complaints by Media

MEDIA                                      2018                 2017                 2016

Digital Media                             948                   1,141                586

Broadcast                                 516                   479                   354

Outdoor                                    350                   219                   118

Print                                         91                     79                     71

Brochures/Leaflets                    58                     61                     74

Cinema                                     12                     15                     14

Direct Marketing                        50                     12                     10

Other                                        95                     102                   57


BROADCAST                            516                   479                   354

Radio                                       159                   125                   127

Television                                 357                   354                   227


The ASAI conducts ongoing monitoring of advertising across all media including monitoring compliance with the adjudications of the Independent Complaints Committee.


Orla Twomey, CEO of the ASAI, speaking at the launch of the 2018 ASAI Annual Report, said:

“The ASAI is committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland and our 2018 Annual Report is testament to this statement, conveying the sheer breadth of advertisements adjudicated on by the ASAI’s independent Complaints Committee.


“The engagement with the ASAI and compliance with the adjudication of the independent Complaints Committee, demonstrates that advertisers in Ireland are completely on board with the ASAI in our bid to protect consumers and ensure the highest standards of advertising and marketing communications.”


“2018 saw the ASAI continue to deeply engage in all our service offerings. In particular, there was a valuable increase with both our influence and strong contributions in the area of policy and Code: food advertising and concerns about obesity and children; non-alcohol beverages related to safety; mobile and broadband advertising and transparency; influencer marketing and recognisability. The requirement for ASAI contributions in these areas, all of national importance, are indicative of the place we hold as an acknowledged expert on setting standards for advertising.”


Sean O’Meara, Chairman of the ASAI, says:

“During 2018, the ASAI continued its outreach to practitioners in the advertising industry to build awareness of the ASAI and our Code. Furthermore, the Authority continued its endeavours to ensure that those involved in the creation and production of advertising see and recognise the ASAI as a trusted advisor in the creation of Code-compliant advertising, rather than solely as complaints resolution organisation.”


“As the advertising ecosystem continues to evolve, it is imperative that advertising, marketing and all commercial communications do not fall into the trap of mistrust. The ASAI understands its role in working with the advertising industry to ensure that the advertising that is placed in the Irish market is prepared with a sense of responsibility to consumers and to society.”


“Our common aim must be safeguarding the long-term protection offered by the ASAI Code to Irish consumers and the advertising industry but to do this, it’s essential that the ASAI and advertisers across all media platforms work in tandem to further advance the service to the industry.”


The ASAI accepts complaints from any person or body who considers that a marketing communication may be in breach of the ASAI Code.


Check out www.asai for more details and to also access a copy of the 2018 ASAI Annual Report.


To keep up to date on ASAI activity, follow the organisation on Twitter @THE_ASAI


 For further information, please contact:

Breda Brown

Unique Media

Tel: 01 522 5200 or 087 2487120 (BB)


Editorial Notes:


Advertising self-regulation


Advertising self-regulation in Ireland has existed for 38 years since the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland was established by the advertising industry in 1981.The strength of the self-regulatory system lies in the support and commitment of the advertising industry – advertisers, advertising agencies, media specialists, direct marketing companies, sales promotion consultants and the various media – print, radio, television, online, cinema and outdoor interests.


The ASAI is a founder member of the European Advertising Standards Alliance (EASA). EASA is a non-profit organisation based in Brussels which brings together 27 national European advertising self-regulatory organisations (SROs) and 13 organisations representing the advertising industry in Europe – advertisers, agencies and various forms of media including television, radio, press, digital and outdoor poster advertising.


The ASAI is also a founder member of the International Council of Ad Self-Regulation which is a global platform which promotes effective advertising self-regulation at a global level. ICAS members include Self-Regulatory Organizations (SROs) and other national, regional and international bodies active on all continents.


Further information on advertising self-regulation, the ASAI and the operation of the system is available at


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