France Today ran a prize draw back in May 2019 to “Win a Balloon Flight for Two Worth €1000”. All sounds lovely right? Not quite. The winner travelled to the site at their own expense to be told that the ride had been cancelled due to bad weather, so they complained to the ASA on the grounds that the promotion hadn’t been administered fairly and the terms of the promotion hadn’t been made sufficiently clear.
The promoter offered a number of alternative options including a flight the next day (which was declined) and a balloon flight for two people during the following year’s balloon festival. Even further than that, if again they couldn’t take off due to weather, they could try again for another date the following year.
The promoter did state in the T&Cs “the event that a prize cannot be supplied, no liability will attach to France Media Group” but they didn’t state that the prize was weather dependent and what the alternatives would be.
The ASA actually ruled against the promoter for both areas of the complaint because they “did not consider that France Media had offered or awarded a reasonable equivalent or taken sufficient steps to avoid unnecessary disappointment.” They also said that “the fact that the ride could be cancelled at the last minute due to the weather was significant information that was likely to have an effect on a consumer’s decision to participate in the promotion. It therefore should have been communicated clearly within the ad”.
How this could be avoided: All significant information about a prize, no matter how obvious, absolutely must be stated in any communication referring to it. Promoters should also have a robust set of T&Cs to assist them with managing winner’s expectations in these instances.
In April 2019 the newspaper ran a promotion inviting readers to purchase 9 newspapers and collect their codes in order to receive two free tickets to Legoland between 23rd April to 2 November 2019.
Now, given that the theme park is aimed at families with children up to the age of 12, of the 102,600 tickets that the newspaper made available, only 5,500 – roughly 5% of the total – were available over the school summer holidays and there were obviously a limited number for weekends.
The ASA ruled that there was not any documented evidence to demonstrate that they had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response, and they “considered that The Sun had not taken into account the likely demand for tickets over the school summer holidays, due to the reduced number of tickets made available per week during that period. Furthermore, The Sun had not clarified how many tickets were made available on weekends throughout the promotional period.”
How this could be avoided: Forecasting, forecasting, forecasting. It is absolutely essential and without it, “subject to availability” is not a substantial level of protection for promoters to hide behind. As the ASA say, that does “not relieve promoters of their obligation to do everything reasonable to avoid disappointing participants.”
Nescafe Gold Vanilla Latte instant coffee ran a prize promotion in May 2019 to win a magazine subscription. The text on the front of the pack stated “100 available to be won every day* “. The back of pack terms stated “4,200 prizes available to be won in total. 100 winning moments available per day, each as 30 seconds slots only when the prize is available. These winning moments have been randomly allocated each day for 42 days.”
The ASA received one complaint that the promotion exaggerated consumers’ chances of winning a prize. This is because the winning moments were for very short periods of time and did not roll over if the prizes were not won during those 30 seconds.
The ruling by the ASA highlighted that only 10% of the available prizes were won and on some days, wins had been very low. They “considered that was unlikely to be in line with consumers’ understanding of the claim [on the front of the pack]” and “given the importance of the winning moments mechanism to consumers’ understanding of their chances of winning…information had not been presented with sufficient prominence…On that basis, we considered that the ad exaggerated consumers’ chances of winning prizes”.
How this could be avoided: When running instant win promotions our advice is to always provide open or rolling winning moments to ensure that all prizes are won. If brands decide to go against this, then they must not exaggerate the number of prizes available or the chances of winning.
Sazerac UK, owners of the alcohol brand collaborated with Influencers Jack Remmington and Francesca Perks when they asked them to create content on Instagram featuring Southern Comfort, the images for both of their posts featured the influencers themselves.
A complainant challenged whether Francesca’s post featured someone under the age of 25 (she was 22 at the time of posting) and the ASA challenged Jack’s post for featuring someone who appeared to be under the age of 25 – both of which would breach the CAP Code and the Portman Code.
Unsurprisingly, the ASA ruled against the brand and the influencers and stated that “people shown drinking alcohol or playing a significant role in a marketing communication for alcohol must neither be, nor seem to be, under 25 years of age. Both ads showed images which contained a bottle of Southern Comfort.”
How this could be avoided: Once again, this highlights just how much the ASA are cracking down on both influencer and alcohol marketing. It’s crucial that brands understand the rules for their industry sector fully before promoting their products – even via third parties. PromoVeritas are always here to support with this knowledge and review our clients’ artwork for them.
The ASA have made another gender stereotyping ruling, this time against the agency PeoplePerHour for an advert seen on the London underground in November 2019. The poster featured an image of a woman alongside text which stated “You do the girl boss thing. We’ll do the SEO thing.”
The advert received 19 complaints, challenging whether the ad perpetuated harmful gender stereotypes by depicting a woman running a business in a patronising way and implying that they are not technologically skilled.
The agency said that the term “girl boss” was in reference to a book, popular culture movement and professional network (who knew!).
Naturally, the ASA upheld the complaints stating “using the gendered term “girl boss”, as opposed to just “boss”, implied that the gender of the person depicted was relevant to their performance in a managerial or entrepreneurial role… use of the word “girl” to refer to an adult woman reinforced the impression that a female “boss” was a novelty, playing at their role and somehow less serious than a man in the same position… We’ll do the SEO thing” (referring to search engine optimisation) was likely to be understood to mean that female “bosses” in particular needed outside help with IT matters.”
How this could be avoided: Whilst ASA rulings against harmful gender stereotypes are still fairly new, with little continuity regarding whether a complaint is upheld or not, brands must seriously consider the context of their adverts to a wider audience, outside of the context they are intending to refer to.