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2019 ASAI Annual Report shows significant majority (65%) of complaints were made on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading’

1,858 complaints received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) in 2019 and 105 advertisements found to be in breach of ASAI Code


2019 ASAI Annual Report (here) shows significant majority (65%) of complaints were made on the basis that an advertisement was perceived to be ‘misleading’


29 April 2020

A total of 1,858 written complaints concerning 1,360 advertisements were received by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland (ASAI) last year, according to the organisation’s 2019 Annual Report which was released today. This represents a 10% increase on the number of complaints received in 2018, while the number of advertisements complained about were 15% higher than in 2018.


The ‘Health & Beauty’ sector attracted the greatest number of complaints (229), followed by ‘Leisure’ (172), and ‘Travel / Holidays, 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 105 advertisements were in breach of the ASAI’s Code of Standards for Advertising and Marketing Communications.


The ASAI Annual Report outlines that 65% of the complaints made in 2019 were on the basis that an advertisement was misleading, while 7% 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, gambling and environmental claims and distance selling and employment advertising.


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, 139 requests from advertisers, advertising agencies and media for copy advice were received in 2019, 10% higher than received in 2018. 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 2018 and 2017:

SECTOR                                                        2019                2018                2017   

HEALTH & BEAUTY                                         229                 166                128

LEISURE                                                          172                 222                130

NON-COMMERCIAL                                          170                 158                448

TRAVEL/HOLIDAYS                                         169                 102                79

MOTORING                                                      161                 100                87

TELECOMMUNICATIONS                                 139                 192                189

FOOD & BEVERAGES                                     137                 289                115

FINANCIAL                                                       108                 76                  101

HOUSEHOLD                                                   104                 100                96

CLOTHING/FOOTWEAR                                   101                 79                  33

EDUCATION                                                     48                  11                  12

PUBLISHING                                                    44                  12                  16

ALCOHOL                                                        30                  26                  24

PROPERTY                                                      27                  17                  30

BUSINESS                                                       26                  37                  36

COMPUTERS                                                   15                  18                  19

TV/AUDIO/VIDEO                                             8                    20                  17

EMPLOYMENT/BUSINESS OPPORTUNITIES   6                    9                    10

AGRICULTURE                                                 3                    9                    8

MISCELLANEOUS                                            203                 103                228

                                                                             1,900              1,746              1,806

In 2019, digital media gave rise to the largest block of complaints, with 976 registered. In 2010, it represented 22% of all complaints, compared to 48% in 2019. Complaints relating to broadcast media (TV and radio combined) totalled 552, while outdoor media attracted 226 complaints.

Complaints by Media are as follows, with comparative figures for 2018 and 2017:

Digital Media 976 948 1141
Broadcast 552 516 479
Outdoor 226 350 219
Print 80 91 79
Brochures/Leaflets 63 58 61
Direct Marketing 61 50 12
Cinema 4 12 15
Other 59 95 102
2021 2120 2108
Broadcast 552 516 479
Radio 178 159 125
Television 374 357 354


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, said:

“The ASAI is committed to promoting the highest standards of marketing communications in Ireland and our 2019 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.”


“2019 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, added:

“During 2019, 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 a complaints resolution organisation.”


“As the advertising ecosystem continues to evolve, it is imperative that the ASAI’s aim of providing consumer protection is properly funded. While the ASAI has strong support from all traditional media in Ireland, we urge digital organisations to engage both from a compliance and funding point of view to ensure we can continue serving the industry and most importantly, protecting consumers across all advertising and marketing communication.”


“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 /Clodagh Foley

Unique Media

Tel: 01 522 5200 or 085 865 8019


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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