The Advertising Standards Authority received fewer complaints last year than in 2015, its just-released annual report reveals.
In 2016 the ASA received 586 formal complaints – a drop of 17% on 2015. It responded to 273 enquiries from media, advertisers and agencies about advertisements – an increase of 26% on the previous year.
Almost half of all complaints (48%) were about television commercials, and 31% were about digital ads.
The key issues complained about in 2016 were misleading advertisements, issues of social responsibility and standards of taste and decency. Therapeutic products and services, household goods and advocacy led the complaints by category.
The ASA says the decrease in complaints and the increase in the number of queries about ad content reflects a shift in focus for the ASA to provide information and promote responsible advertising.
The report also includes a list of the five most complained about ads for 2016. The number one spot was taken by a television advertisement that sparked claims of racist stereotypes.
Most complained about ads of 2016:
2 Cheap cars’ ‘Ah so’
Twenty-seven people were so offended by the advertisement they made a formal complaint. The ad featured a Japanese car salesman who repeatedly said ‘Ah so’ in response to questions posed by the customer. When the customer decided to buy one of the cars the salesman says ‘Ahhhh sooold’.
Complainants said the advertisement perpetuated racist stereotypes.
Transport Agency’s ‘If Stoned: Don’t Drive’
The television advertisement for NZTA featured two men under the influence of drugs who are involved in a car accident. After the accident, there is a flashback to the driver smoking a bong.
The complainants said the advertisement was unsuitable for children because it was screened during prime time and showed drug use.
The ASA said the advertisement contained an important public safety message and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.
Greenpeace: ‘What’s Polluting the Rivers?’
The ad claimed that New Zealand rivers were being polluted by industrial dairy farming and irrigation schemes.
The complainants said the advertisement was misleading because the dairy industry is not solely responsible for the pollution of New Zealand rivers.
“2016 was a year of strategic planning and investment for the ASA. The five-member Governance Board, with input from the wider membership and staff, undertook a review of the strategic plan and identified key areas for investment over the next three years,” ASA Chair Heather Roy notes in the report.
“The board has confirmed the need to continue the excellent codes and complaints work, along with a challenge to enhance the reach of the ASA and look for opportunities that may benefit from our expertise in fast and effective industry regulation.”