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Consumer, Food & Retail Insights

| 4 minutes read

ASA rulings summary, 1 May - celebrity appeal, how to avoid overstatement in your copy and staying on the right side of trade information

In this week's rulings, the ASA (who are always watching) assess the appeal of a former Big Brother presenter to under-18s, admonish an advertiser for their claims straying into exaggeration and crack down on vaping claims by an NFPO.

When does a celebrity in an ad strongly appeal to under-18s? - ASA ruling against Postcode Lottery Ltd t/a People's Postcode Lottery

What was complained about? A TV ad for ‘The People’s Postcode Lottery’ featured a well-known (although not to some authors of this blog) TV presenter, Emma Willis. The logo for The Voice, a show presented by Emma Willis, was visible in the ad. The complainant challenged whether Emma Willis was an individual that would be of strong appeal to an audience of under-18s. 

What was the ruling? Not upheld. In news that may disappoint her agent, the ASA did not consider that Emma Willis would strongly appeal to under-18s because: (i) her work for the TV show ‘Big Brother’ and her radio show ended in 2018 and so these were not relevant to the time the ad was broadcast; (ii) the shows relevant to the time of the ad were “adult-oriented” and did not have a significant child audience (these included, ‘The Circle’, ‘Cooking with the Stars’, ‘Delivering Babies’ and ‘This Morning’); (iii) whilst the ASA did note that under-18s who watched ‘The Voice’ and ‘The Voice Kids’  would likely recognise her in the ad as being the presenter of these show, her role as a presenter was not “aspirational or influential” [Ed: ouch!]; and (iv) the number of under-18s following Emma Willis' social media profiles were not significant both proportionately and in absolute number - for example, on Instagram, only 0.7% of her followers were between the ages of 13 and 17 years (equating to 13,812 individuals), and for Facebook this was at 0.2% (which equated to 1,344 individuals). 

What are the ramifications? Even where a family show and its logo is depicted in an ad [Ed: and we hope they also strayed on the right side of ‘incidental inclusion’], the ASA will assess the role of the individual concerned in the show with those in an ‘aspirational’ or ‘inspirational’ roles will be more likely to appeal to under-18s. In addition, the ASA has been consistent that if an individual's social media profile does not have a significant under-18 following, they are less likely to appeal to under-18s. In the reverse scenario, as seen in a previous ruling which we have summarised, a social media presence with a significant under-18 following (which was 157,000 Snapchat followers aged under 18 years) is likely to lead to the ASA concluding that the individual has a strong appeal to under-18s.

When does 'bigging up' your brand become a big problem? - ASA Ruling on Whitbread Group plc t/a Premier Inn, Beefeater

What was complained about? A search ad for Premier Inn claimed “Premier Inn Edinburgh - Rooms From Only £35 Per Night” which was alleged to be misleading and incapable of being substantiated. 

What was the ruling? Upheld. The Premier Inn could provide data showing that, over a booking window of 365 days (from 8am on 4 November 2023), there were 112 “site nights” to book a hotel room in Edinburgh for £35 and that there had been 377 such “site nights” available. Despite the Premier Inn considering this “a significant spread”, the ASA felt this to be a “small percentage”. 

What are the ramifications? This contains two useful points to note: (i) Ad Forms - Premier Inn claimed to “provided training on responsible advertising” which included targeting and stating availability. However, it seems as if the same level of scrutiny which may have been placed on a full ‘OOH’ ad was not applied to this paid-for search ad which did not seem to have any qualifying information or text. This ruling therefore reminds us that the ASA does not define 'advertising' and will investigate possible code breaches irrespective of a brand's relative spend on the ad - short copy on a CPM basis is no less within the ASA's purview to issue an adverse ruling than a large OOH activation on the London Underground; and (ii) Overstatement - advertisers should remember that while they, owing to their understanding of the relevant industry or details of the offer, may understand that there would be qualifications - the ASA does not hold the ‘average consumer’ to be so informed. It may be tempting to think that “rooms from £35” is a clever way to bring users to your site under the dangled carrot of cheap lodgings, however without qualification this claim is misleading and should not be used. The ASA for example,  expect that £35 rooms would constitute a significant part of the brand's offering, with more expensive rooms being the exception to permit this form of phrasing. Alternatively, advertisers can clearly qualify their more attention grabbing claims (e.g. by providing information on when such prices would be available and/or stating that availability is limited together with the average price of a room).

Indirect marketing of unlicensed e-cigarettes by Independent British Vape Trade Association (IBVTA) 

What was complained about? A complaint was made about the IBVTA, a non-profit organisation, for promoting vaping/e-cigarettes through an advertisement in the Scottish newspaper, East Lothian Courier. This occurred amid discussions by the Scottish Government about potentially banning vapes by 2025. The advertisement featured headlines like “Let’s clear the smoke of confusion: Vaping saves smokers’ lives” and “Vaping instead of smoking, helps save smokers’ lives.” It also cited statistics claiming that "53% of regular smokers and 61% of recent ex-smokers use single-use devices." 

What was the ruling?  Upheld.  The ASA determined that the ad violated CAP Code rule 22.12, as it concerned the promotion of "unlicensed, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes" which were not licenced as medicines. Such promotions are also prohibited under the Tobacco and Related Products Regulations (TRPR) in certain media (e.g. newspapers, magazines, online media) where ads are not targeted to the trade. While the IBVTA did not specifically promote any individual brand or product, and argued that their ads helped to educate smokers about the health benefits of vaping over smoking traditional cigarettes, the ASA still considered that the ads had the indirect effect of promoting e-cigarette products. Consequently, the ASA ruled that the advertisement must not appear again in its current form.

What are the ramifications?  This ruling highlights the variety of communications which are considered ads under the CAP Code. Here, no specific brands or products were advertised, but the claims were found to have the indirect effect of promoting restricted products. 


advertising, asa, ads, celebrity, gambling, lottery, vaping, e-cigarettes, hotel, consumer goods, consumer goods food and retail