Teradata Marketing Applications, a division* of Teradata Corp. (NYSE: TDC), the big data analytics and marketing applications company, has conducted research that reveals major non-compliance issues in the advertising practices of many UK corporations in markets as diverse as Health & Beauty and Financial Services. Studying over 1,400 complaints made to the UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015, Teradata discovered that non-compliance is widespread across many channels that organisations choose, including television, radio and print advertising, electronic communications and social networking. The largest number of upheld ASA complaints into advertising practice related to companies’ own websites.
For the study, Teradata Marketing Applications looked at publicly available rulings for all 1,437 upheld ASA rulings during the three-year period. Based on each ruling, Teradata identified the sectors and mediums of listed campaigns, and also analysed whether the complaint was made due to offensive or socially irresponsible creative imagery and language, or whether the activity was specifically in breach of Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code regulation, or both.
Non-compliance is a major issue in UK marketing communications. The study found that a massive 93.4% of all complaints were upheld due to compliance issues of some kind, with the remainder being triggered by negative responses to the creative elements of campaigns. Some 7.6% of all upheld complaints were found to have breached both compliance and creative guidelines, while an alarming 85.7% of campaigns had ASA complaints upheld for compliance issues alone, for example making misleading or false claims about products and services.
Brands’ own websites were the source of over two fifths (41%) of all upheld ASA rulings, almost four times as many infractions as TV ads (11% of all upheld rulings) or direct mail campaigns, leaflets and circulars (7%).
Looking at different market sectors, Teradata Marketing Application’s research found that Health & Beauty campaigns were the source of 252 upheld complaints over three years, or17.6% of all upheld ASA rulings, ahead of sectors including Leisure (17%), Business (14.2%) and Retail (13.2%).
With the Financial Services sector having generated significant ASA attention over recent years this was another focus for Teradata Marketing Applications’ research. While significantly fewer financial campaigns had complaints upheld by the ASA than Health & Beauty, some 85 financial campaigns were still found to be in breach of ASA guidance.
Further investigation of financial campaigns in particular, which not only fall under ASA regulation but also additional scrutiny from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), found that, of those 85 upheld complaints, seven were reported due to creative issues with the communications, a further eight had issues upheld due to creative and regulatory grounds, and the remaining 60 campaigns all failed ASA investigation on compliance issues alone.
Unlike most of the ASA complaints in other industries, the most frequently reported medium for financial campaigns was TV, with 21 upheld complaints; followed by brand and businesses’ own internet sites (20); and texts (11). Radio follows in fourth place with nine upheld complaints, and email with eight.
“The fact that over four fifths of these upheld complaints are due to compliance reasons alone is almost entirely avoidable through a more rigorous focus on attention to detail and compliance in the marketing function,” said Jon Williams, Country Manager UK&I, Marketing Applications, Teradata. “An investment into marketing operations technology, which allows marketers to unify all their campaign activity, ensures that campaign elements are not isolated to specific channels and that any potential compliance issues can be more easily identified in advance. It also means businesses can share resources more effectively across silos and ensures an informed message is created regardless of the channel of delivery.”
“Three quarters of our caseload relates to misleading advertising communications rather than investigating reports where creative has caused harm or offense,” an ASA spokesperson commented. “As an organisation we strongly advocate businesses, brands and their associated suppliers and agencies taking a more rigorous and responsible approach to making sure all communications, on all media, present clear, fair and above all honest representations to audiences, wherever they find them.”