Boo! Hiss! Roar! Moan!

It seems Kiwis have found plenty to grumble about, well, when it comes to advertisements anyway. The folks at the Advertising Standards Authority have been kept very busy according to their 2009 Annual Report, receiving complaints about 829 advertisements (up from 703 in 2008), with 1339 total complaints.

Advertising Standards Authority executive director Hilary Souter says the increase in complaints is certainly challenging to keep up with, but technology has made it easier.

“70 percent of complaints come from our online complaints form which makes it more efficient,” says Souter.

And what was it about advertising that specifically got under the viewing public’s skin? In news that is earth shatteringly shocking, it seems we’re not at all pleased with advertisers making misleading claims about products. The report shows a whopping 41 percent of complaints received by the Complaints Board are related to misleading advertising, up 3 percent on last years figures.

The silver medal of dissatisfaction has been awarded to complaints relating to offensiveness and social responsibility, representing 24 percent of complaints. Though it’s the second most complained about category, the number had reduced form 2008’s figures which sat at 33 percent.

But what exactly have people been complaining about? Consumer products are top of the list, receiving 159 complaints, up from 115 complaints the previous year. It was a close race for second place with liquor advertising (83 complaints) pipping food and beverage advertising (80 complaints) at the post.

So what exactly happened with these complaints? For starters, 510 were duplicates and a further 366 were deemed to have “no grounds to proceed”. A further 89 were withdrawn. That means that out of the 1339 formal complaints, only 374 made it to the Advertising Standards Complaints Board. Of the 374, 93 were upheld and 92 were settled, with the parties accepting that there was a breach and the advertisements consequently being withdrawn. 189 advertisements were not upheld.

Overall, Souter says advertisers are well behaved when you look at the total number of ads produced every year.

“Most advertisers generally adhere and are well behaved. People aren’t going out of their way to offend because it’s not in their interest to do so.

“We have great industry support. It’s in the interest of the media and advertisers to make the complaints system work.”

But Souter acknowledges advertising is a creative business.

“People push the boundaries and that’s how you get great ads,” she says.

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