How to respond when the ASA calls

11:14 AM, 17 August 2016
How do you respond to an ASA complaint?

A complaint has been made against your ad - what do you do?

Advertisers don't set out to cause complaints to the ASA. But they do happen, with typically more than 1000 complaints a year. How you respond if a complaint is made will be important in how the material is considered by the Complaints Board, as they can only adjudicate on the information provided.

How do I respond appropriately?

As frustrating as a complaint may be, our first piece of advice is don't let the emotions flare up. Complaints are part and parcel of responsible industry self-regulation.

Before responding, take time to review the complaint made carefully. Even if it is something you do not necessarily agree with, could the complaint hold merit? Remember the Complaints Board are likely to rule on the basis of how a typical consumer would consider a claim made, or in, the case of offensiveness, the light of prevailing community standards.

Be sure to consider what are the specific points raised by the complainant - and answer these directly. Generally the Complaints Board are not considering the whole advertisement but just the specific issues of the complaint - so answer these, providing a detailed response in the context of the ASA Codes of Practice.

Check your sources

If the complaint is about a specific claim, you must substantiate that claim, ideally with details supporting that, being as factual as possible. And no, Wikipedia is not likely to be considered a suitable reference point for substantiation (some have tried!). When an advertiser is unable to properly substantiate a claim, the complaint is likely to be upheld.

Complaints often relate to the media used, particularly in terms of exposure to younger people. If so, be sure to provide an explanation of why the medium was chosen, ideally in relation to the target audience. Ask your media agency to explain why the medium was chosen to reach your target.

More Help

For more information, check the ASA website. The ASA has also produced a template to help advertisers to prepare their response.

You can also contact the ASA directly for more information on the complaint and how best to respond on 0800 AD HELP (0800 234 357) or (04) 472 7852.

ANZA is always willing to help Members if they receive a complaint notification - contact our office - or 09.4887455 for assistance

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