Marketing Matters | Review of April 2024

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Welcome to this month's edition of our Marketing Matters newsletter, where we look at advertising and marketing (A&M) trends in the Retail and Consumer sector.

We will be looking at:

  • The some of the key takeaways for A&M departments following the ASA's rulings in April
  • ASA news last month
  • What the CMA has been up to in the same period

ASA rulings – key takeaways for your A&M departments

April was a quieter-than-usual month for the ASA, with the regulator only handing down 13 rulings all of which were upheld.

Misleading claims

Misleading claims kept their top spot with ten of the ASA's rulings found to be likely to mislead consumers.

A rail company was promoting its complimentary food and drink service for customers travelling first class. However, a number of complainants challenged the ad as being misleading, given their frequent travel on the service without receiving complimentary food and drink. Despite the company arguing that the period leading up to the complaints was heavily impacted by industrial action, after reviewing data provided to the ASA, the regulator was not convinced that the claims made were not sufficiently backed up and held them to be misleading.

A building society's TV, radio and press ads, were found to be misleading. The ads feature The Crown actor, Dominic West, in a portrayal of a "big bad banking boss" who wanted to make cutbacks to the branches, but not his massive office. One could only chuckle (perhaps a little nervously!) when he delivered the line: "Smoothie me!" to his assistant. Acting skills aside, the ASA considered that the statements made in the ads would lead consumers to understand that the building society had made long-term decisions not to close their branches and that they had not closed any recently, which was not true. As such, the ads were in breach of the CAP Code.

Unsubstantiated claims

This type of claim took a close second place, with eight rulings finding that the claims made could not be sufficiently substantiated.

One of these involved two paid-for TikTok ads for a toothpaste and teeth whitening company which essentially made statements about the range of flavours produced and sold by the company.

There were references to Ben & Jerry's ice cream flavour, as well as certain "mystery" which showed the logos of other well-known brands, such as Sour Patch Kids sweets and Redbull energy drinks). Oddly, despite these suggestions, it was not actually possible to get any of these flavours. Needless to say, the ads were misleading and in breach of the CAP Code. The same month, this company got in trouble for ads made in relation to instant teeth whitening – something that is not possible. Not a good month for ads!

Qualification and exaggeration

In joint third place, claims with issues around qualification or exaggeration came up three times each in the ASA's April Rulings.

Issues around qualification came up in the rulings mentioned above as well. However, on the exaggeration front, a mobile phone case company got on the wrong side of the ASA for a TV ad about the efficacy of their phone cases in the event of dropping one's phone. The ad showed fifty people throwing their phones (protected by the company's phone cases) in the air and letting them land on the ground… You guessed it!

No damage to the phones. What a relief! Nevertheless, the complainants weren't quite on the same page, after having dropped their phones from a low height and finding that their phones were in fact damaged. The ASA reviewed test reports provided by the company, but ultimately found issues with the reports (lower heights than in the ads, lack of independence of the people involved in the tests, etc.) and ruled that the ad exaggerated the efficacy of the phone cases and was therefore in breach of the CAP Code.


The key takeaways from the ASA rulings this month are:

Validate the truthfulness in your ads: In April, misleading claims seem to range from advertisers making statements that are completely untrue to claims that have the potential to mislead. It's important to double-check (i) what you are saying is true and (ii) consider how consumers will construe the statements you make. It is their views that matter.

Independent evidence: It's important to be able to back up your claims. But remember, if there are issues with the independence of the evidence you produce, you might struggle to convince the ASA if they are looking into hints of exaggeration in your ads.

Top ASA stories last month

Get ready for the Euro 2024 kick-off in the right way

With the Euro 2024 coming up in June, the ASA has warned advertisers to play a 'good game' when it comes to advertising in their article "Keep onside and avoid a straight red with our marketing tips". Packed with great football puns, the article is worth a read for any A&M departments getting involved this year, but the highlights include:

  • Advertisers need to be careful not to put out ads that come across as being associated with / endorsed by national teams or UEFA where this is not the case.
  • Offensive stereotypes should be avoided at all costs. In a tournament with lots of different nationalities attending, it's crucial that marketers screen their ads for any cultural, racial or national stereotypes.
  • Social responsibility is a must. Therefore, ads should avoid encouraging violent or anti-social behaviour, excessive drinking or similar irresponsible actions.

Time to talk about qualification

Another hot topic for the ASA this April is a reminder to advertisers of the importance of qualification in any claims they make. Their piece entitled "Qualification for the nation" sets out some good tips and below are a few of them:

  • It will usually not be enough to refer consumers to 'the small print'. Material information must be included in any ads and any qualifications must be prominent and easily legible.
  • A qualification should obviously not contradict the main message of the ad. So, saying that everything is 50% off, but qualifying that to say it only applies to certain products will not do.

CMA activity in April

The CMA activity in the A&M space has been quiet in April with nothing to report in this edition. We will hopefully have more for the readers in our May edition, so do stay tuned for more in the CMA space.

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