Monday, 11 April 2011

Advertising substandard authority

Anyone listening to Classic FM recently, amongst the interminable adverts voiced by Joanna Lumley (no, Ms Lumley, I do not want personal injury lawyer), will have come across ads for the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). These proclaim proudly that no dubious advertiser, even on the internet is safe. I think it's time someone reported these adverts to the Advertising Standards Authority, because in my limited experience, pretty well any bad advertising is safe - this agency doesn't seem to work.

Admittedly I'm basing this on a very small sample. I have had interaction with them in two cases. The first involved a mail-based advertising campaign. In this case, the ASA had ruled against the campaign. They said it had to stop. Yet months after this, people were still adding comments to my blog day after day (until the events mentioned in the previous post occurred) saying that they had received the mailing that day. The adjudication did nothing to stop the mailings. It seemed all the ASA could do was give the company a ticking off, after which it was business as usual.

The more recent example was an advertising email I received. The subject line of the email said 'You have won an iPod' or some other desirable product (I don't still have the original, sadly). Now usually I delete an advertising email without reading it, but because this subject line said 'You have won' I went to the trouble of opening the mail. And guess what? I hadn't won. It was just an advert giving me the option of entering a competition to win an iPod.

I complained to the ASA - there is no doubt whatsoever that the subject line was misleading. They came back and said, yes, the subject line was misleading, but once you read the email it became obvious that it was a competition. So they would take no action.

This totally misses the point - they clearly don't understand electronic communications. The subject line is the equivalent of a headline on a newspaper article or an advertising poster. It draws you in. To say that the headline can be totally untrue as long as the body of the text is correct is ridiculous - yet that's exactly what they did. As far as I was concerned, my time was wasted by an untrue allegation in that subject line.

So next time the government is looking for a quango to axe, I suggest the ASA gets the chop, because they're a waste of money and simply don't understand electronic communication. If the powers that be are interested, I'd be happy to set up a body operating at half the cost that will take real action (provided we are empowered to impose fines, shut down businesses etc.) How about it government?

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