Ad complaints hit "record number"

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A "record number" of adverts were complained about last year, the Advertising Standards Authority (Asa) has revealed.

In its annual report for 2006, the industry watchdog said that 12,842 ads were complained about, with internet advertising becoming a growing area of concern.

But despite a rise in the number of individual ads which prompted public unease, the ASA said that the total number of complaints it received dropped by 14.5 per cent over the year.

Some 22,429 complaints were lodged with the organisation, with the ASA ordering 2,421 ads to be changed or withdrawn as a result.

The ASA said that concerns about religious offence, violent imagery and same-sex kisses dominated those that were raised about the ten most complained about ads last year.

An ad by the Gay Police Association, featuring a bible in order to suggest a religious motivation for homophobic incidents, attracted more concern than any other, with 553 complaints lodged with the ASA over the national press promotion.

The industry regulator upheld complaints by various religious groups who claimed that the ad was offensive to Christians.

Meanwhile 271 complaints that an HM Revenue & Customs ad depicted all self-employed people as tax evaders were not upheld, although the image of a plumber hiding under a kitchen sink was subsequently amended by the government anyway.

Fashion giant Dolce and Gabbana was responsible for the third-most complained about ad of the year, with 166 people expressing concern at a Napoleonic-inspired national press ad which they claimed glamorised knife crime and violence.

The complaints were upheld, although those about a second Dolce and Gabbana ad in the top ten which showed two men kissing were not.

Commenting on the report ASA chairman Lord Borrie welcomed the fact that the proportion of ads falling foul of industry codes had not risen, but warned that decency rules regarding internet advertising were still "unclear" despite the dramatic growth in online promotion.

Complaints received by the ASA about internet advertising rose by 33 per cent in 2006, making the medium the second-most complained about non-broadcast advertising format.

"The industry needs to address this issue quickly so that consumer faith in online messages can be as high as it is for advertising that appears in traditional formats," warned Lord Borrie.

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