HOUSEHOLD

1. SC Johnson Ltd t/a Mr Muscle, 28 October 2015

A TV ad for Mr Muscle’s Toilet Power discs, stated “One shot helps prevents the stains that harbour germs, helping you keep your toilet continuously clean, with every flush. One shot helps protect your family”. A product demonstration showed that when the toilet is flushed, a blue graphic radiates out from the disk and covers the whole of the toilet bowl.

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the ad exaggerated the cleaning performance of the product. The ASA did not uphold the complaint.

SC Johnson explained that the blue graphic was intended to simplify the message for consumers that the product would clean the whole toilet bowl rather than demonstrate the scientific method behind the product. Nevertheless, they did explain the scientific method behind the product and provided, in support, two videos and accompanying stills demonstrating the product in action. Clearcast had been satisfied that the visual demonstration in the ad was reflective of how the product worked.

The ASA considered that the visual demonstration in the ad was likely to provide consumers with an understanding of how the product worked. In considering the videos and stills, the ASA noted that they demonstrated how the product actually worked and were in line with the visual demonstration, and did not consider that the ad exaggerated the cleaning performance of the product.

This adjudication serves as a useful reminder of the importance of understanding the message that consumers will take from any ad, particularly when dealing with product efficacy claims, and to ensure that full substantiation is available to support the claims being made.

RETAIL

2. DFS Trading Ltd, 7 October 2015

A TV ad and product page on DFS’ website contained the following claims:

  1. “All sofas in the new season collections at DFS are half price. The capsule collection yell sofa is now just £699, and available with 4 year’s interest-free credit”. On-screen text stated “£699 was £1398”.
  2. “Yell: Patch High wing Back Chair …Half price £498 Was £998 Save £500”. Product information stated “Previous price applied from 09/01/2015 to 16/03/2015”.

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the savings claims were misleading as they believed the products had been sold for less than the “was” prices mentioned in the ad. The ASA upheld the complaint.

DFS explained that both products had been on sale at the “was” price for 64 days, reduced to half price for 56 days and then put back on sale at higher prices but well below the “was” prices that had been identified. DFS provided screengrabs of the products to show the periods and prices they were on sale for. When asked by the ASA to substantiate the confirmation given to Clearcast that the “was” prices were genuine, DFS explained that as they were a ‘to order’ retailer, their promotional and core ranges were on display in store in room sets. Customers were able to access the DFS website via in-store kiosks to see details of all items for sale at DFS. They noted that due to having a large range of products, some products may only sell in small quantities. After conducting market tests, they had been of the view that the products could be sold in reasonable numbers at the “was” prices, but this had not been possible, so after the half price promotion ended they set lower prices for the goods than the original “was” prices.

Despite an assurance from DFS of compliance with the BIS guidance on pricing (signed by a legal adviser), the ASA did not consider it had been provided with sufficient substantiation, such as sales data or invoices for the products at the different prices.  The ASA therefore concluded that the ads were misleading as DFS failed to substantiate that the “was” prices were genuine retail prices for the products.

This adjudication is another reminder of the importance of looking very carefully at pricing claims and ensuring that any original pricing identified as the reference price can be shown to be a genuine retail price. The BIS guidance is always important to consider in this respect.  In this case, it is unsurprising that the ASA upheld the complaint as there had not been any evidence to show that the “was” price was the genuine selling price of the products. As has been discussed in previous snapshots, advertisers must be able to provide evidence of the pricing history of products to justify the reference price being used.

3. Iceland Foods Ltd, 14 October 2015

A press ad and online video for Iceland foods claimed the following for its new bakery range:

  1. “Frozen brings you freshly baked artisan bread straight from your oven … #PowerofFrozen”. The press ad included images of loaves of bread.
  2. “All of the items featured on this video are part of our new bakery range … ensuring you and your family can enjoy freshly baked treats … literally just been baked straight from the freezer … easy to cook”.
  3. “our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast … once at home, store the bread in the freezer, bake the bread frozen in the oven”. This part of the video demonstrated the baking process.

Complaint / Decision

The complainants, including The Real Bread Campaign (Sustain) challenged the ads on three grounds:

  1. Whether the use of “artisan” and the depiction of the baking process were misleading as the bread was produced using automated industrial techniques and some would have contained artificial additives;
  2. Whether using “freshly baked” misled consumers as the products were intended to be cooked from frozen; and
  3. Whether “our stone baked bread is made from the best wheat, sourdough, water, salt and an amount of yeast” was misleading as they believed the product contained additional ingredients including artificial additives. 

First complaint

Iceland explained that the bakery who produced the stone baked range confirmed that it did not use a high speed mixing process or any undeclared processing aids. Although the products were not kneaded by hand or made in a windmill as portrayed in the ads, they noted that consumers were unlikely to be misled as they would understand the bread to be mass-produced. Further, they explained that the term “artisan” is now more widely used and would not be understood by consumers to mean that the bread was cooked in small batches using skilled manual processes at or near to the point of sale.

The ASA explained that it was clear from the press ad that the bread was sold frozen and that no claims were made in relation to ingredients or the baking process. They noted that Iceland was a recognisable brand and as such, it was probable that consumers would understand the products to be mass-produced on an industrial scale where additional ingredients may be used. The ASA considered the use of “artisan” to be understood as “artisan-style” or “premium” frozen items. In considering all these factors as well as the fact that the breads shown did contain fewer additional ingredients and used fewer processes than other mass-produced breads, the ASA concluded that the press ad was not misleading.

In relation to the online video, the ASA noted that the ad showed the bread being prepared by hand accompanied with claims such as “we want to go back to the roots of baking”. The ASA further noted that, unlike in the press ad, the online video showed the entire product range which would suggest that the entire range was produced by hand. The ASA also considered that the stone baked items contained fewer ingredients as had been claimed in the ad. For these reasons, the ASA concluded that the online video was misleading.

Second complaint

Iceland explained that no claims had been made that the bread was freshly baked when purchased. Instead, the ads made it clear to consumers that they should oven bake the bread from frozen. Iceland noted that “freshly baked” was not limited to instances where the bread was baked from scratch in a continuous process. In this case, the bakery had confirmed that the bread was fresh when it went through the freezing process.

The ASA explained that in these ads, references to “freshly baked” would be understood by consumers to mean that they were to bake the bread at home rather than it being freshly baked at the point of sale. Therefore the ASA did not uphold the second complaint.

Third complaint

Iceland provided details of the ingredients and specification of the breads used in the range. They explained that the breads did not contain any artificial ingredients but did contain ‘dextrose’ and ‘wheat gluten’ which were also naturally present in the flour. This would provide the bread with a consistent fermentation and structure.

The ASA upheld this complaint as the use of extra ingredients not referenced in the specific claim would mislead consumers.

The larger food (and drink) retailers and manufacturers should remember that campaign groups are always likely to scrutinise their ads and to bring complaints if they consider an ad to be at all misleading.  This adjudication therefore serves as a useful reminder of the care that should be taken not to exaggerate claims being made, particularly not to present food (or drink) products as being more authentic than they are. 

4. Boots Professional Services Ltd t/a Boots Opticians Ltd, 28 October 2015

A press ad by Boots Opticians stated “many modern gadgets, whether it’s a fancy LED TV or your smartphone, as well as sunlight and energy-saving bulbs, give off a certain kind of blue light that can cause your retinal cells to deteriorate over time … Boots Opticians can help you protect your eyes from harmful blue light, reducing damage to retinal cells … new Boots Protect Plus Blue lenses come with a special finish that filters out the harmful blue light and eases eye strain and fatigue”.

Complaint/Decision

The complainants, including one pharmacist, challenged whether the ad was misleading for claiming that the blue light from the listed sources could cause damage to retinal cells over time and whether the lenses actually protected against the blue light from those sources. The ASA upheld the complaint.

Boots Opticians provided one study along with other materials to substantiate the claim that the blue light had a negative effect on the eye. They explained that their lens finish blocked 20% of the harmful blue light and provided documentation to support the claim.

The ASA noted that consumers were likely to interpret the ad to mean that a reduction in the amount of harmful blue light people see could reduce the deterioration of their vision as they get older. The ASA also noted that consumers would understand “damage to retinal cells” to refer to conditions such as age-related macular degeneration, which could be caused by a number of factors. The ASA took expert advice when reviewing Boots’ substantiation of the claims.  The ASA considered that full trials conducted on humans would be necessary to support such a claim. Moreover, the study relied on only suggested that sunlight and not the harmful blue light may be a risk factor for early signs of age-related macular degeneration. The ASA also considered that consumers were likely to understand that the coating of the lenses offered overall protection against the harmful blue light. In line with this, the ASA explained that Boots Opticians had not provided evidence that a 20% reduction of the harmful blue light would lead to a significant reduction in the amount of retinal damage the harmful blue light would cause.   

The ASA generally looks for studies conducted on people, rather than laboratory studies, to support these types of claims.  In this ad the focus was clearly on the issue of “harmful blue light” rather than sunlight and the ASA clearly took the view that the one study relied upon failed to provide sufficient substantiation of the claims. Advertisers should always remember to ensure that the substantiation available adequately supports the claims (whether express or implied) being made.

LEISURE

5. Clwb Ifor Bach, 14 October 2015

A tweet in welsh on the @CLWBIFORBACH twitter feed translated in English as “Hello @yrawrgymraeg! Come and be hammered in Welsh. All our bar staff speak Welsh!”

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the tweet was irresponsible as it encouraged excessive drinking.  The ASA upheld the complaint.

The advertiser explained that @yrawrgymraeg was a weekly feature on their Twitter page which encouraged people to promote events in Welsh. They explained that the tweet was intended to demonstrate that they provided a Welsh language service. Nonetheless, the advertiser accepted that the wording of the tweet could be misinterpreted.

The ASA unsurprisingly took the view that the tweet would be interpreted by viewers as encouraging people to drink excessively and was therefore in breach of the Code.

This adjudication serves as a simple reminder that advertisers need to ensure that the same level of care and scrutiny is applied when advertising via social media. A tweet may only contain 140 characters but it must still comply with the Code.

6. Petfre (Gibraltar) Ltd t/a Totesport, 28 October 2015

A tweet from Totesport’s Twitter account featured a photo of Jordan Spieth playing golf and stated “We have gone 3/1 (from 15/8) for Jordan Spieth to win the #USOpen! Will NOT last! Bit.ly/USOpenGold15”.

Complaint / Decision

The ASA challenged whether the ad was irresponsible as it featured Jordan Spieth, who was under 25 years of age, in a gambling ad. The ASA upheld the complaint.

Totesport explained that the purpose of the photo was to show people that Jordan Spieth played golf. They considered that he did not play a significant role in the ad nor was he shown gambling. Totesport also explained that the tweet contained a direct link to their website which would allow a person to place a bet directly through a transactional facility, as stipulated in the Code.

The ASA stated that the Code allowed ads to feature an individual, who was or appeared to be under the age of 25 (18 to 24 years old), playing a significant role only in marketing communications that appear in a place where a bet can be placed directly through a transactional facility, for instance, a gambling operator’s own website. The image should then only be used to demonstrate the bet in question, and not more generally in a gambling context.  In this case, the ASA noted that the ad did not appear on Totesport’s website where the bet could be placed directly through a transactional facility.

Equivalent adjudications were published relating to Coral Interactive (Gibraltar) Ltd and Hillside (UK Sports) LP t/a Bet365 in relation to their Twitter accounts.

The legal restrictions in relation to featuring individuals playing “a significant role” are strictly applied in relation to gambling and alcohol advertisements.  In the context of gambling, care must particularly be taken when seeking to advertise bets which feature those who are or who appear to be under the age of 25.  Although such an image can be used on the website, it can only be used in this more restricted way, and not as a general advertisement.  

HOLIDAYS AND TRAVEL

7. Travel Republic Ltd, 7 October 2015

The closing date for a competition where entrants were required to film themselves packing a suitcase with 20 selected items in the quickest time possible had been extended by the advertiser.

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the competition had been administered in accordance with the Code. The ASA upheld the complaint.

Travel Republic explained that they extended the closing date for the competition to make it fair on all entrants as some of the terms were not clear and caused confusion among entrants. They contacted existing entrants informing them of the change and had also placed a notice on the blog section of their website.

The ASA considered that the terms and conditions of a competition were in the control of an advertiser and as such, the advertiser ought to foresee any issues before starting the competition. Further, the Code states that closing dates can only be changed where there are unavoidable circumstances beyond the promoter’s control which make it necessary and that participants are disadvantaged. As a result, the ASA explained that the existing entrants could have been disadvantaged and the competition had not been administered fairly.

Terms and conditions are fundamental to any competition or promotion and so careful scrutiny is required to ensure the competition is administered fairly for all entrants. The ASA has always taken a strict approach with regard to changes to closing dates, taking the view that advertisers need to anticipate issues when preparing the terms and conditions for promotions. The ASA is likely to interpret what are unavoidable circumstances beyond a promoter’s control very narrowly.

ALCOHOL

8. Heineken UK Ltd, 7 October 2015

An ad on Strongbow’s YouTube channel portrayed a spoof awards ceremony with a winning category called “Best Strongbow as my other half”. The winning speech was as follows, “I dedicate this award to my family, to all the lovely creatures out there, and to my other half. I love you. I’ve loved you since the first day I met ya. And I always will do. My dear Strongbow”.

Complaint / Decision

Youth Alcohol Advertising Council challenged whether the ad portrayed alcohol as indispensable or taking priority in life. The ASA upheld the complaint.

Heineken explained that the style, language and actions of the actor and the ad made it clear to viewers that the ad was a parody of an awards ceremony. Heineken considered the use of “love” to be commonplace when talking about a favourite food, product or service. They also noted that the ad did not contain any reference to the winner’s alcohol habits. They explained that it was unrealistic to infer from the ad that Strongbow was indispensable or taking priority in life.

The ASA explained that there were numerous references to the winner’s relationship with Strongbow, namely the references to Strongbow as his “other half”, being “in love” with Strongbow and the presenter’s comment that he was “on a date”. As a result, the ASA considered the ad to imply that alcohol was important, if not more important, than personal relationships and was therefore in breach of the Code.

Alcohol ads are often subject to scrutiny by campaigning groups such as the Youth Alcohol Advertising Council.  In advertising alcohol, advertisers always need to consider what impact they will have on the youth and not just their target market. Such ads must always make sure they are socially responsible and not promote a culture of immoderate drinking.

9. Sibling Distillery Ltd, 14 October 2015

A website for a distillery featured a photograph of the siblings behind the company with text stating, “We have grown up surrounded by this industry, and although the eldest of us (XXXXX) is only 23, between us have over 30 years of experience …”

Complaint / Decision

The Youth Alcohol Advertising Council, supported by Alcohol Concern, challenged whether the ad was in breach of the code as it featured people under the age of 25. The ASA upheld the complaint.

The advertiser noted that the people featured were the owners, co-founders and directors of the business and had a full distilling licence. The age of the eldest sibling was a fact and not something that could be altered.

The ASA explained that under the Code, ads for alcohol could not feature people under the age of 25 playing a significant role. Since the people in question were connected to the business and the ad commented on their background and experience, the ASA considered them to play a significant role.

Ads for alcohol should not feature anyone playing a significant role that is or even looks under the age of 25. There are exceptions to this rule such as in marketing communications where a person under 25 can be shown in a celebratory family setting so long as they are not drinking or seem to have drunk alcohol. In this case, even though the relevant ad was on the “Who We Are” page of the company website, the ASA took the view that it was a marketing communication or advertisement. The extremely youthful profile of the owners and co-founders was clearly a key issue in this decision.

10. Molson Coors Brewing Company (UK) Ltd, 21 October 2015

A TV ad for Carling showed a mascot running onto the football pitch before tripping and falling. The coach walked from the hospitality area to the seating area holding two pints of beer, yelling “It’s good, but it’s not quite Carling”.

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible for showing the consumption of alcohol in a football stadium within view of the pitch, which they understood to be an illegal activity. The ASA did not uphold the complaint.

Molson Coors noted that the ad was intended to be light-hearted as was apparent in their campaign’s other ads which demonstrated a failure after an apparent success. They explained, with reference to the Sporting Events Act 1985, that the consumption of alcohol was permitted from hospitality areas in view of the football pitch, except for the period beginning 15 minutes before and finishing15 minutes after the end of the football match. Keeping in line with the time limits, Molson Coors noted that mascots usually appear on the pitch more than 15 minutes before the start of a game and this was supported by the fact that no football players were on the pitch during the ad. They further noted that the coach was within the hospitality area when holding the two pints of beer. Clearcast verified the requirements under the legislation and confirmed that the coach was within the hospitality area.

Having considered the rules under the Sporting Events Act, the ASA accepted the view that mascots or pre-match entertainment usually appear on the pitch before play has commenced. The ASA considered that most viewers would understand the coach to be in the hospitality area as the pints appeared to be freshly poured as well as in glasses.

It is interesting to see the role the ASA plays when considering legislation around regulated activities. Although not in this case, advertisers should be aware that simply complying with the legislation may not always be enough. However, in this case, the ASA accepted the representations made by the advertiser.

COMPUTERS AND TELECOMMUNICATIONS

11. HTC Europe Co. Ltd, 14 October 2015

A banner shown on the advertiser’s website featured a woman talking on her mobile phone in a moving car with text stating “htc one M9 LET THEM STARE”. A disclaimer at the bottom of the ad stated “The model on this page is a passenger and not driving the car she is travelling in”.

Complaint / Decision

The complainant challenged whether the ad was socially irresponsible as it encouraged illegal and dangerous driving. The ASA did not uphold the complaint.

HTC explained that their disclaimer negated the view that the ad encouraged dangerous and illegal driving.

The ASA explained that the statement “let them stare” was likely to be referring to the phone’s appearance rather than suggesting that people gave less attention whilst driving if using their mobile phone. In considering this along with the disclaimer and the fact that the woman was sitting in the passenger seat of the vehicle, the ASA did not consider the ad to encourage dangerous and illegal driving.

In the past, the ASA have held ads in breach of the Code for encouraging dangerous driving even when accompanied by a disclaimer. The ASA has also taken a strict approach to ads which feature someone holding a mobile phone in connection with driving.  However, it is important to remember that the ASA will consider the overall message of the ad and so, by tying components together, as seen here with the disclaimer and, most importantly, the women sitting in the passenger seat, the ASA may find the overall message to be compliant with the Code.

PUBLISHING

12. News UK & Ireland Ltd t/a The Sun, 21 October 2015

Three ads in The Sun newspaper promoted a competition where readers were invited to submit an image of their cleavage for a chance to win £1000 and a photoshoot with a Sun photographer.

Complaint / Decision

Campaigning group Object challenged whether the ads were offensive as the competition promoted the objectification of women. The ASA did not uphold the complaint.

The Sun first argued that the ad was not within the remit of the ASA as the campaign was an editorial piece based on the annual cleavage day held in South Africa. They continued to say that it would increase readership and feature the winner in an editorial piece. They noted that the competition was for women only and had been created by a woman for some light-hearted fun.

The ASA not accept the Sun’s remit argument and considered that the complaint was within their remit as the images and text in the ads were related to the terms of the competition, which was a sales promotion. However, the ASA took the view that the ads were not overtly sexual and did not feature any nudity. They agreed with The Sun that they were light-hearted. The ASA also noted that the ads were in line with The Sun’s content and would not have been considered by readers to be distasteful or cause wide spread offensive.

This is an example of the ASA considering the targeting of an advertisement or promotion – here to readers of The Sun newspaper. Although the ASA will consider whether ads are in line with the brand image and target audience, advertisers should nevertheless always remember to remain compliant with the Code. In this case, the ASA accepted that a number of people might find the promotion in question distasteful or offensive, but considered that the ads were unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence to the target audience.

NON-COMMERCIAL

13. Karma Nirvana, 14 October 2015

A press ad by a UK charity, Karma Nirvana, featured an image of a woman with a transparent bag over her head with her eyes closed and mouth opened. Text stated “RememberShafilea SHAFILEA AHMED WAS BRUTALLY SUFFOCATED BY HER OWN PARENTS IN AN ‘HONOUR’ KILLING … to preserve her memory we have a 3D printer set to create a sculpture of Shafilea in response to your tweets of support using #RememberShafilea”.

Complaint / Decision

The complainants challenged whether the image of a suffocating woman was distressing and whether the ad condoned or encouraged an unsafe practice. The ASA did not uphold the complaints.

Karma Nirvana explained that the text accompanying the image clearly communicated their aim, “…to counter this dark intention by using plastic in a positive way and build a memorial sculpture in her honour”, thereby highlighting a growing issue. None of the people they had worked with to run the campaign, including survivors of honour based abuse, indicated that the ad was offensive, distressing or distasteful. They considered that the Metro newspaper was targeted at an adult audience and that the ad did not incite or encourage an unsafe practice.

The ASA accepted that, although the woman in the ad had her mouth open, her eyes were closed and it was therefore not overly graphic or violent. They considered that the text in the ad and the explanatory text about the campaign made clear of Karma Nirvana’s aim. This put the image into context even though a number of readers would find the idea of portraying the murder of young women to be shocking and upsetting. The ASA noted that although the Metro newspaper was targeted at adults, the ad did not appeal to children nor did it present a negative portrayal of the activity. Overall, the ASA considered the ad did not cause unjustifiable distress or condone or encourage an unsafe practice.

When considering issues of distress or unsafe practices, it is always particularly important to ensure ads are targeted and explained properly.  The ASA is always likely to grant more leeway to not-for-profit organisations and campaigns in terms of considering the potential for causing offence.  Interestingly, Karma Nirvana used the same image for the mock up front cover of Cosmopolitan’s February edition to raise awareness of honour killings. In this instance, a plastic seal was placed around the magazine to symbolise suffocation and women’s oppression.