It’s a bit like the perennial question of whether the tree falling over alone in the woods makes a noise– do the too-good-to-be-true sales offered by sofa retailers and double-glazing salesmen ever end? Well now the ASA has ruled against one such company to prevent them from advertising heavily discounted prices which are actually just the normal prices.
You’ve probably seem the Safestyle UK television adverts (and then wished you could scrub your ears and eyeballs), which normally involve a lot of screaming and unbelievable offers of free upstairs windows, or free windows at the front or BOGOF or something else that offers a prima facie discount of around 50% from the ‘normal’ price of their windows. The ASA, however, were responding to a complaint over advertisements offering “55% off” as a promotion. The complaint suggested, heaven forbid, that the 55% off was not, in fact, an offer, and the 55% off prices were available all the time, meaning that this constituted false advertising.
In response, HPAS (trading as Safestyle UK) affirmed that during the previous six months there had been 86 offer days, with a further 86 non-offer days. They said given the schedule, and similarly to other retailers that offered periodic sales, it was possible, if not likely, that consumers would see a number of different promotional Safestyle ads before either responding or making a purchase.
As part of the investigation, as is often the case, the ASA also spoke to Clearcast, to see what checks they had undertaken before allowing the ad to run.
Clearcast said they had also been suspicious of the 55% off claims taken care to discuss what was needed to support the pricing claims as “the prices must represent genuine discounts”. They had received ‘evidence’ from Safestyle in the form of a signed letter that affirmed the above and stated that “the products had been sold without discount for at least the previous 93 days at the time of clearance”, which is already not quite the same as the 86 days they claimed to the ASA. Safestyle, however, also informed Clearcast that because all items were made to measure, they “did not have price lists as such but that any full prices would be discounted by 55%.” Clearcast also trusted Safestyle as far as they could throw them, so further requested, and received, some kind of legal confirmation “that the ad was accurate and not misleading.”
Nevertheless, the ASA did their own digging and found that, far from the 86 or 93 days claimed by Safestyle, from the beginning of 2015 until the date of the complaint in early March, “there had been only one three-day period, in January, at which no promotional price was offered against Safestyle’s standard prices.” The ASA did concede that there was a longer non-promotional at the end of 2014, amounting to a massive 35 days, but during that preceding three month period, the products had been offered at either 55% off or on a buy-one-get-one free promotion for the majority of the time.
As a result, the ASA concluded that the ‘discounted’ price, and not the non-promotional price was the normal selling price and that therefore any offers claiming to offer 55% off were misleading and must not be used again. Consumers 1, dodgy double glazing salesmen 0
You know how it is- it’s a lovely hot summer’s day, you’re waiting at a bus stop to cram yourself on to a sardine tin full of sweaty people, daydreaming of a cool glass of Pimms in a local beer garden. However, it seems the people at Pimms know this too, and their latest advertising campaign uses the latest smart technology to read your mind and fulfill your desires.
Diageo, who own the Pimms brand, are trialling a new digital advertising campaign at bus stops in London. Not only will the digital screens show you a tantalisingly chilled glass of Pimms, you know, with a drop of condensation slowly sliding down the side of the glass, but they will also tell you where you can enjoy one in comfort. You see, the advertising will search through the local hostelries in the Taylor Walker chain in the London Victoria area and The Metro in Clapham and, using a beacon network, will count the number of smartphones in the area. This means that the advertising board cannot only tempt you with the idea of an ice cold Pimms, but it can tell you where the nearest beer garden is, one with (presumably, unless everyone in there is a pensioner with a Motorola Razr) actual vacant seats, and may even give you directions on how to get there.
And don’t worry, it’s all up to the minute stuff- the advertising boards will only activate when the temperature reaches 16 degrees C (as no one drinks Pimms when it’s cold), and it will measure occupancy at five-minute intervals- which means that if it computes a beer garden in the list is full, that pub is removed from the advertising and the next nearest one inserted in its place.
Digital advertising screens are fast becoming the next big thing. Static pasted billboards (PB) with one message are so yesterday’s news. Companies like Pimms are tailoring their advertising spend to specific times, days and even ambient temperature already- for example adverts for air conditioning units are likely to be far more effective on hot days; adverts for kebabs after 11pm at night. And while advertisers are getting cleverer and savvier, does this mean we, as consumers need to get wise to their moves, or should we just be grateful that companies can now tailor our bombardment to things we might actually want to buy…
The ASA has a tough job, investigating hundreds of complaints into adverts every year even if only one person has complained about an advert that no-one else saw. However, it seems it’s an even harder job these days to run a ‘fair’ promotion, even if the people making it unfair are the public themselves…
An ASA adjudication, published today, upheld a complaint against a promotion, jointly administered by Sony and Game stores, offered the first 100 entrants the opportunity to purchase a limited edition Playstation 4 games console (PS4), as well as giving five random entrants the opportunity to win the same console.
The promotion was a competition- a daily clue was published which described a specific character from PlayStation history. The clue also included a link to a ‘character image’ page, which contained over 300 different characters, and only selecting the correct character would give a link to a Game page with a submission form to enter the competition. Sony said the link to the Game page was updated approximately one minute before a clue was released to allow them to check that the link worked before the clue was released.
The problem was that people, being people, didn’t play fair. To start with, the link Sony posted was static, which meant that it could be copied and pasted on to a gaming forum site, for example, for anyone to click, not just those who had been bothered to work out the clue. Sony said their system functionality was not in place to allow for unique URLs, and they had “not foreseen” the issue of the submission form URL being shared. Sneaky sorts also devised clever little scripts that allowed them to access the Game page even before the Sony clue was published, effectively letting them jump straight to the front of the queue. Sony actually made 112 consoles available per day to try and compensate for this fact.
In addition, while Game laboriously checked names addresses and IP details for daily winners, they didn’t manage to check across the whole period of the promotion, meaning five people were able to purchase more than one discounted PS4, albeit on different days, which was in breach of the competitions own terms and conditions.
The ASA accepted that Sony and Game had tried to run the competition fairly, and noted they had time-stamping entries and only disqualified multiple or early entries, or those from outside the UK. However, the ASA found that, because of the actions of the naughty public, the promotion was not, in fact, run fairly and breached the CAP code on administration of promotions, as those who had entered fairly did not have an equal chance of actually winning.
A Welsh bus company has pulled ads on its buses because they featured a topless model and a slogan that has been described as sexist.
The ads, promoting New Adventure Travel’s new cross-city service in Cardiff, first appeared at the weekend. Soon enough, people were very annoyed. As the picture below shows, the advert reads: ”Ride me all day for £3″
One person tweeted: “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO EXPLAIN THIS AD TO MY PRIMARY SCHOOL KIDS?? Thanks but no thanks, won’t be taking advantage #everydaysexism”. Pop singer Charlotte Church referred to it as “atrocious.”
Of course, for every person angry about it, there was a swathe of people lining up to tut about “SJWs” and generally not seeing what all the fuss was about.
New Adventure Travel published this statement: “In view of the reaction to our bus advertising today we wish to set out our position: Firstly we have stated that our objectives have been to make catching the bus attractive to the younger generation. We therefore developed an internal advertising campaign featuring males and females to hold boards to promote the cost of our daily tickets.”
“The slogan of ‘ride me all day for £3′ whilst being a little tongue in cheek was in no way intended to cause offence to either men or women and, if the advert has done so then we apologise unreservedly. There has certainly been no intention to objectify either men or women. Given the volume of negativity received we have decided to remove the pictures from the back of the buses within the next twenty four hours.”
Now, it is your turn to complain about stuff.
You may have seen the adverts that ask “are you beach body ready?” to the women of Britain, which has seen a lot of people getting really annoyed. Meal replacement and protein products are being flogged with the promise of thinness, which has seen people daubing the commercials in graffiti.
The irritation is so strong that there’s a Change.org petition, which says that these adverts are “aiming to make [individuals] feel physically inferior to the unrealistic body image of the bronzed model, in order to sell their product”.
Whether or not you agree with the vandalism/activism, one thing you’ll invariably find odd is the stance from Protein World Chief Executive Arjun Seth.
Arjun’s response is typically defensive, telling Channel 4 News the adverts are “aspirational”. So far, so typical – one camp being angry and the other saying ‘what’s the fuss?’
Seth then added something quite bizarre. He noted that he’d only take notice of the petition if it got 1,000,000 signatures, and then dismissed those that had already signed it, by saying: “They’re terrorists, you can quote me on that”. Terrorists! You can imagine that someone who has had their legs blown off by terrorists is thrilled to learn that Protein World feels that they’ve been the victim of terrorist action, by people drawing on some posters with pens.
Seth added that this controversy is good for business: “It’s good – we gained about 20,000 followers in the last few days. Sales have gone up significantly. What people like is we are standing up for our brand,” adding that campaigners are “extremist, they shout a lot, these people are irrational and extremist, vandalising adverts”.
Meanwhile, the Advertising Standards Authority are weighing up what they’re going to do about all this, with no immediate decision made.
Paddy Power, who have form for making adverts that annoy loads of people, are at it again, this time poking fun at the IRA.
They’ve got a giant billboard featuring two men wearing balaclavas, alongside the phrase Tiocfaidh Ar La (non Irish-speakers – that means ‘our day will come’) in reference to the Marriage Referendum.
A press release for Paddy Power says: “Our latest betting on the referendum makes it look rosy in the garden for the YES camp but don’t be surprised if the NO vote comes from behind to give us all a surprise.”
“In the words of Alex Ferguson, it’s squeaky bum time!”
We’re going to leave this here, without much of a comment, because nothing is ever going to stop Paddy Power taking the piss out of absolutely everything, ever.
Catalogues for supermarkets and the like, are always thoroughly tedious affairs. There’s so little of interest in them, that we’ll pounce on just about anything that raises the vaguest of smiles.
However, we’re beaming at the brilliantly odd child who stars in this week’s Lidl catalogue. For reasons unclear, the photo shows a little girl chewing on a flower.
So whether they left this in because they thought it was funny or they just didn’t check, the whole thing is by-the-by, as everyone can enjoy the daft things children do, like sticking flowers in their mouths and eating them.
Lidl’s marketing team are on fire lately.
Last week, they offered money off One Direction Easter eggs when Zayn left, and you’ll remember that they also expertly mocked Morrisons and completely took the Michael out of the Sainsbury’s ’50p challenge’.
Well, our Lidl friends are at it again for April Fools Day, offering vouchers for ‘money on’ a host of products.
Lidl have taken whole pages out in newspapers, filled with these April Fool vouchers. While being reasonably funny, they’re also throwing shade at the competitors. They might as well be saying “We could actually put these vouchers out and still be cheaper than most of our rivals, know worramean?”
In the advert, you’ll see that Lidl say that they’ll make their products more expensive “if you really do believe that higher prices mean higher quality.”
The votes are in, the count has been checked and verified and today, the ASA has published the list of 2014′s top ten most complained about adverts. However, what marks 2014 apart as a groundbreaking year for advertising shock value is the news that the top three in this list are also the top three adverts based on number of complaints of all time. Well done advertisers.
So, without further pause for dramatic effect, the winners are:
#1 Paddy Power and THAT Oscar Pistorious ad.
Hardly likely to be a surprise, Paddy Power’s Oscar Pistorious ad was generally found to be in poor taste, drawing a record 5525 complaints to the ASA, which is more than three times the complaints levied against #2. While the ad, which offered a ‘money back if he walks’ guarantee for bets placed on the verdict of Oscar Pistorius’ murder trial, was a clever pun , the ASA found that it caused serious offence by trivialising the issues surrounding a murder trial, the death of a woman and disability, and pulled the ad immediately. Paddy Power were also berated for bringing “advertising into disrepute.”
1,768 people complained about this ad (although more complaints are still coming in in 2015) which jovially replaced the word ‘booking’ for a profanity in a TV and cinema ad. While many claimed the ad was offensive and encouraged bad language amongst children, the ASA did not uphold the complaints, judging that it was a light hearted play on words that couldn’t be mistaken for an actual swear word.
In a characteristic show of common sense, the ASA also ruled that it was unlikely to encourage swearing amongst children as any children that did pick up on the joke were unlikely to have learned bad language through the ad itself.
#3 The Sun’s prize of a bra-less lady
Just pipped into third spot at 1,711 complaints was the Sun’s genius idea to offer a date with a page 3 model as a prize in a fantasy football competition.
Despite the likely numerous Sun readers rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of such a prize, the ASA decided that offering a date with a woman as a reward for success in the game was demeaning to women and objectified those offered as prizes. They took especial note of the wording “we might even let you pick which one, so feel free to start your research now …”, considering it “further enhanced the impression that the women were simply objects to be selected at the whim and enjoyment of the winner, and had no choice in the matter themselves.”
The ad was banned on the grounds that it was “sexist, offensive and socially irresponsible” and objectified women.
#4 Sainsbury’s Christmas advert
You’re surprised at this one aren’t you, with many people suggesting that Sainsbury’s actually managed to out-John Lewis in the schmaltzy Christmas advert stakes in 2014. However 823 complaints were lodged against this advert, mostly objecting to the use of an event from the First World War to advertise a supermarket. While acknowledging that some found the ad to be in poor taste, the ASA did not judge the ad to be offensive and in breach of the Code.
#5 Save the Children
This charity appeal advert showing a women giving birth to a baby with the help of a midwife spawned 614 complaints that the scenes were offensive, distressing and inappropriately scheduled. One wonders how such people thought they arrived into the world. However, the ASA showed them short shrift and did not uphold the complaints, saying the ad’s post 9 pm scheduling restriction appropriately reduced the risk of younger viewers seeing the ads and causing distress. Because adults should be able to cope with the facts of actual life.
#6 Waitrose Ltd
267 people had an issue with a TV ad that claimed ‘Everyone who works at Waitrose owns Waitrose’ as some things, like cleaning, were outsourced, meaning the cleaners did not, in fact, own Waitrose. This one never went as far as getting a ruling though, Waitrose amended the ad once concerns were raised.
The ASA received 199 complaints that two VIP e-cigarette TV ads glamourised and promoted the use of tobacco products. The ASA did not uphold the complaints about glamourisation, but did consider the ads depicted the products being exhaled in a way that created a strong association with traditional tobacco smoking.
#8 www. uk-passport.net
The 188 complaints against this site formed part of a sector-wide investigation into copycat websites. The work included commissioning consumer research and taking action across the sector to remove misleading claims, imagery and emblems. It also involved supporting the Government awareness campaign #StartAtGOVUK, which warns those looking for official services to start at GOV.UK to avoid misleading websites.
#9 Flora Buttery
This animated TV and YouTube ad for Flora Buttery showed two children making breakfast in bed for their parents and walking in on their parents ‘wrestling’. The ASA received 183 complaints that the ad was offensive and unsuitable for children to see. While the ASA acknowledged that while the ad was suggestive, it did not contain any sexually graphic or distressing scenes, and so was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to young viewers.
Another part of the ‘copycat website’ investigation, this site drew 177 complaints.
The ASA also said that the rise of social media, which has allowed members of the public to voice and co-ordinate their concerns about ads is the reason for the rise in complaints, leading to the top three most complained about ads ever all falling in 2014. Many of the complaints about the Paddy Power ad and the third most-complained about ad (The Sun’s ‘Win a Date with a Page 3 Model’) were coordinated via the online petition site, change.org. And while most of the ads that prompt high numbers of complaints do so on the grounds of Mary Whitehouse style offence, most of the hundreds of millions of ads that appear each year don’t raise concern. Where they do, it’s mostly in relation to misleading claims, which make up around 75% of all cases received by the ASA.
Guy Parker, ASA Chief Executive, said: “2014 was the year social media came into its own in making it easier than ever to lodge complaints en masse. While some ads will inevitably split opinion, as the diverse nature of complaints we received shows, last year underlined the importance of our work in cracking down on misleading ads, including copycat websites, that are simply unfair to consumers.”
Apart from, it seems, if you work for the Krispy Kreme in Hull, where some bright spark created an event called ‘KKK Wednesday’ as part of their calendar of activities. KKK Wednesdays, of course, were designed to keep Hull’s children entertained during the half-term.
So, while the children of the North can enjoy colouring-in on Colouring Tuesday, on a Wednesday, there’s a delightful course in white supremacy and lynching for little Jemima and Frankie. You can imagine the kids might be taught which wood is best to use for a burning cross and which methods are best for tying nooses while your hands are cold.
Krispy Kreme shared their image on Facebook to let everyone know about the events going on, which means that a whole team of people missed the glaring ‘KKK’ they were accidentally promoting. Social media, naturally, were quick to spot it and point out the error.
Have a look at it. There it is. ‘KKK Wednesday’.
A Krispy Kreme spokesperson told the Mirror that the company apologises “unreservedly for the inappropriate name of a customer promotion at one of our stores”.
“All material has been withdrawn and an internal investigation is currently underway.”
If you aren’t a seven year old girl, or you don’t watch Saturday morning kids television, you might be forgiven for not having heard of Lelli Kelly shoes. For the uninitiated, if you imagine someone has ground up a unicorn in a blender, swallowed it, and then vomited the contents up onto a pair of trainers, you might get close to imagining what Lelli Kelly shoes look like. However, matters of taste aside, Lelli Kelly have recently been investigated by the ASA over an ad that was accused of being misleading.
In addition to rainbow diarrhoea shoes, Lelli Kelly also do a line in school shoes and boots, which are mostly patent leather but which can be jazzed up by the addition of straps and buckles and of sparkly jewels to the outside of the footwear. After all, a girl can never have too many jewels. Nevertheless, a lack of blanket glitter coverage was not the reason for the complaint to the ASA. A recent advertising campaign by Lelli Kelly was even offering miniature fashionistas the opportunity to get a free gift of a diamond bracelet that matched the diamonds on the boots. Amazing. Unfortunately, a number of viewers complained to the ASA as it transpired that the diamond bracelet on offer was not actually made of diamonds, but was cheaper plastic sparkly stuff, just like on the shoes. Which were not studded with real diamonds either, it turns out. There were also complaints that the advert “took advantage” of the “credulity” of children.
Now, whatever your opinion on Lelli Kelly shoes themselves, or their inhumane treatment of unicorns, you are probably feeling a modicum of sympathy for them for being rapped by the ASA for offering fake diamond bracelets, when anyone with half a brain would have known the bracelets were not made of real diamonds. However, your sympathies would be misplaced, as the ASA also believe that only a muppet would have thought you could get a ‘real’diamond bracelet freewith a pair of children’s shoes.
Of course, they didn’t put it quite like that. The ASA decision took into account the selling price of the shoes (between £49.90 and £74.90. Yes. For children’s shoes) and “considered that adults, who would make a decision on whether to purchase the product, would understand from those visuals, the reference to the studs and the fact they came free with a pair of children’s boots, that the bracelet did not include real diamonds.”
Hurrah for the ASA. However, there is a serious point, which is that the ASA has to investigate all complaints even if only made by one person (the Lelli Kelly complaint had six idiots)- regardless of whether said complainant is several sandwiches short of a picnic or not…
Hip hop, thanks to being so fantastically successful, is hugely lampoonable, which means the whole genre is a marketing team’s dream. Not only do they think it is easy to make passable raps, but they also think it lends them immediate credibility, which is why there are so many awful marketing team hip hop parodies out there.
Samsung were the last lot to have a stab at it, and now we find HTC at it, making a tune that looks to start beef with other mobile makers, including Some White Guy throwing ironic gang shapes.
And so, let us listen to their attempt at being razor sharp.
Aiming lyrical daggers at their rivals, Apple and Samsung, we hear that HTC holds ‘the crown’ and that the company ‘can’t be beat’ and other self-aggrandising business.
However, while that is perfectly ignorable, there’s some hugely clunky lines in there. Doc G (once of PM Dawn no less) spits about “Peter Chou” before going H.A.M. about how the ”internal battery’s strong” and the ”extreme power saving mode”, over an ATL-esque stripclub beat.
Then there’s the in-your-face; ”more than a few clowns stole what we originated. We own the universe, your Galaxy is overrated!” coupled with; “your phone was all glass – why you change your tune now? Your chip is slower but you’ll never touch our BoomSound”.
Seeing as Doc G was in PM Dawn, he could’ve at least done a pun about being set adrift on “memory bliss” or something. Honestly – what is this world?
If you’re completely daft, you can download the song too.
Some people say the best kind of advertising is free, and with the widespread (good and bad) media coverage of the launch of the new NS&I Pensioner Bonds, you could be forgiven for thinking that you must have been living under a rock to have not heard about them. However, it seems the boffins at NS&I have developed an alternative view, and have spent millions advertising these bonds that were, even before launch, already expected to sell out. Genius.
The eagerly anticipated market-leading Over-65 Bonds were launched two weeks ago, to a flurry of media attention, including complaints over a website that couldn’t handle the high traffic generated. Already, more than 10% of the £10bn Treasury funding has been allocated, and the rest of the bonds are expected to be snapped up over the next few months. Why then has NS&I spent £2million trying to direct even more visitors to the creaking website?
It sounds madness but NS&I do have their reasons- although whether these reasons are worth £2m is perhaps debatable. NS&I said part of the advertising spend was to direct people to the website as the easiest method of investing- presumably despite the problems- as people might otherwise think postal or telephone investment (which presumably costs NS&I more to administer) was the only way to do it. NS&I are also looking to attract those who wouldn’t normally be an NS&I investor with their adverts. While wanting everyone to get a piece of the high-interest action is perhaps a noble aim, those with thousands of poundsof spare cash to tie up for three years are likely to read the paper and/or be on the lookout for market leading rates anyway, surely…
A spokesman for the state-owned savings bank said it had spent “about £2m” on marketing the bonds adding insult to injury by saying: “The launch of the Pensioner Bonds has proved hugely popular, with the biggest opening sales of any retail financial product in Britain’s modern history.”
However, the bank went on to say that it is “keen to ensure that potential customers, including non-NS&I customers, are aware of the market-leading rates on offer.”
£2 million well spent then…