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Complaints over online ads rocket

Technology remains the second most complained-about industry sector in the UK, according to the annual report of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Internet-related ads generated 1,100 complaints - up from 1,015 in 2002 - making this the fifth most complained-about media type last year, behind junk mail, posters, and newspaper and magazine ads.

Significantly, complaints about text message ads rose from 65 in 2002 to 393 last year – that’s an increase of 500 percent.

The reports details the case of Tornado Exec Ltd, which texted people urging them to call a premium rate line to collect a £1,000 prize. None of those who called the number and who contacted the ASA has ever received their prize.

But the overall winner, with an increase of 2500 percent, is e-mail ads, which prompted 455 objections last year, up from 17 in 2002.

The ASA blames its new spam laws – requiring users to explicitly opt-in to receive email advertising – as the chief reason for the increase.

The year also brought a first for the ASA – with voicemail advertising breaking onto the scene. Highlighted by the report was the case of a marketing campaign for the Tom Cruise movie Minority Report, which used "menacing" voicemail containing heavy breathing and screams to promote the film.

The report said: "The increasing popularity of email and SMS marketing campaigns means more work for the ASA. As the number of advertisements produced and distributed in the UK increases with every new technological development, it is inevitable that complaints figures will rise."

Sources: The Register,

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