ASA Decisions Need To Speed Up And Ban Ads Before Campaigns Finish Anyway

It comes as little surprise that the ASA has been receiving complaints about the new GoCompare ad, which sees Gio Compario switch from opera to flying through the air upside down after driving into a tree.

Campaign describes the complaints as suggesting the spot is "distressing." To be honest, it probably is.

To be more honest, however, an investigation will count for little.

How so? Well, by the time the ASA has looked at the complaints, checked out the ad in question and gone to the brand to ask them questions, this campaign will be long gone. Even if the ASA decides it is not ok to show it on tv, it won't matter, the campaign will have ended anyway.

I speak from personal experience as someone who has complained three times to the ASA. The organisation needs a pat on the back for the way it now makes it very easy to report an ad or piece of marketing that you find to be misleading or offensive. However, one can only assume this has left them snowed under with reports and unable to act at speed.

A couple of years ago I successfully got the ASA to ban a gambling company from claiming to be giving away money. The truth was the cash giveaway couldn't be spent -- it could only be used on their service and so was effectively a free bet.

My second was where I saw a real problem with timings. A tyre company ran a Facebook video ad through which a driver put on winter wheels and then drove around recklessly on public roads. It was incredibly irresponsible to suggest that buying a certain type of tyre allows a person to drive like a rally driver in snow and ice on public roads. The ASA agreed several months later and the video was banned. Trouble was, the cold spell was long gone and the brand wasn't even bothering trying to shift cold weather tyres any more. 

Which brings us on to my birthday treat this summer, watching "The Illusionists" in London. It was amazing, but shortly afterwards the show started advertising itself through a video conveying the public's reaction to the press night I had been present for. The trouble was, there was more trickery on the video than on stage. People were seen talking about amazing tricks -- which then cut to daredevil antics, which, worryingly, did not appear on the night I was there -- and so could not have been seen by the people saying how great they were.

What may well have happened was a film from the New York show had been reutilised with footage of London's press night but with tricks from Broadway still being shown. That's my best guess.

Don't get me wrong -- it was a great show in London, but it annoyed me that people were being hoodwinked by the reaction from members of the public and celebrities which then cut to tricks they had not seen. The video is here -- but let me tell you, there was no guy falling through a sword, there was no helicopter on stage, no shrinking guy in a glass cage, yet this is what it appears the public are talking about. The card trick guy from South Korea was there, and I can tell you, he was worth the price of a ticket on his own.

So, roughly a month later, I get confirmation from the ASA that they pretty much agree with what I'm saying and have taken steps to talk to the show about the video, highlighting the amends that would need to be made to allow it to carry on being used. Effectively, I think they were pretty much agreeing if a trick wasn't performed on the night people are talking about, you can't include them in the video, insinuating this is what they saw and this is what was in the show. 

I have no idea whether any of those tricks in the video made it to London at a later date, but they certainly weren't there on the night they are referencing. There's a minor slap on the wrists coming to them, but here's the rub -- from what they said on the night and the information on the theatre website, the show ends this weekend anyway. 

All that will happen is the show's organisers will be told they need to edit a video that they will no longer be wanting to use anyway for the very good reason that its run at the Shaftesbury Theatre is finished. 

To give the ASA its due, it did apologise for its tardiness in getting back to me and I suspect they are run off their feet.

The trouble is that when it takes this long to get back to a complainant and then go to the advertiser, it is too late most of the time. Investigations need to speed up or advertisers will just keep on flouting rules knowing a ban will come when the ad is no longer of any use anyway.

Next story loading loading..