Advertising complainants: Who and where are they?

Crosier K., ERDOĞAN B. Z.

Journal of Marketing Communications, vol.7, no.2, pp.109-120, 2001 (Scopus) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 7 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/13527260121943
  • Journal Name: Journal of Marketing Communications
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.109-120
  • Keywords: Advertising, Complainants, Geo-DEMOGRAPHICS, Planning, Regulation
  • Anadolu University Affiliated: No


A trend in images and messages that eventually cause offence was noted among significant international advertisers, accompanied by a steady increase in formal complaints over a 6-year period in the UK. Though the numbers are at present small, reanalysis of large-scale industry research reports suggested they are the tip of an iceberg consisting of many million potential complainants. If this latent activism reaches a critical mass, it will become a phenomenon that planners can no longer afford to ignore. Meanwhile, the literature on complaining behaviour has concentrated on the causes and responses rather than on the sources. Therefore, this study applied geographic and psychographic analysis techniques to postcodes accompanying over 50 000 complaints to the two main regulatory bodies in the UK, which were hitherto unavailable to independent researchers. A resulting index of complaints by location confirmed the intuitively logical assumption that it is characteristic of London and the south of England. A profile of the complainants showed that they typically belong to a distinctive and relatively homogeneous social group of potential opinion leaders. Together, these outputs provide an original and unique template for minimizing the risk of longterm negative effects due to accidental provocation of an unintended audience. This is a media-strategy solution; the alternative would of course be to abandon potentially controversial creative strategies. © 2001 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.