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Ad Standards Board challenged by companies ignoring its authority

A single advertiser choosing to ignore rulings by the advertising watchdog remains an issue for the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) as it continues to expand its remit into new areas.wicked chicken and egg

The Advertising Standards Bureau review of operations for 2015 revealed that 13 advertisements from four advertisers were subjected to complaints by consumers, and that the relevant advertisers failed to respond to demands to amend or discontinue/remove the ads.

The number of complaints that advertisers refused to respond to was down from 21 last year, whereas the number of advertisers rose.

One advertiser in particular, believed to be campervan rental company Wicked, refused to abide by nine rulings issued against it by the ASB and, in fact, no longer responds to requests by the ASB to comment on complaints. The ASB said it is attempting to find an “enforcement solution”.

“Nine of the cases related to one advertiser,” the report said.

“If this advertiser was not included the compliance rate would 99.15%. The ASB continues to work with relevant government organisations to find an enforcement solution in relation to this advertiser.”

The total number of complaints was down from last year, with 4,430 complaints about 512 ads.

ASB complaints 2015This resulted in 501 cases being heard with 391 dismissed, 80 upheld and 30 withdrawn. Of the 80 upheld, 67 were either modified or discontinued.

Of the top 10 most complained about ads, the ASB found just one in breach of community standards, an ad by controversial dating site Ashley Maddison, which received 138 complaints.

Holden won the honour for the most complained about ad of 2015 with 161 people complaining about a driver swearing: “Bloody caravaners”.

The issue of companies willfully ignoring the ASB’s rulings comes as the watchdog works to increase its remit.

This year it introduced complaints about public relations to its aegis and will also administer new rules on wagering and gaming advertising, announced by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) earlier this year.

The ASB said it would continue to work to build its position as a single port of call for complaints about advertising, saying it would look at expanding its sphere – focused largely around issues of community concern such as taste, decency and portrayal of dangerous behaviours – to include issues of truth, potentially.

The ASB spokesperson said the Board would also look to taking on complaints handled presently by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Complaints about sex, sexuality and nudity dominated public concerns, with 27.32% of complaints citing one of three as an issue, while 15.76% focused on concerns about discrimination and vilification. Just 0.17% of complaints related to inappropriate advertising to children.

Ads appearing on free-to-air TV drew the most attention, accounting for 71.86% of complaints, ahead of pay TV (5.15%), internet (3.67%), radio (3.23% and billboards (3.12%).

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