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Consumer, Food & Retail Insights

| 5 minutes read

ASA Rulings Summary, June 2024 - Distressing charity ads, dashcams and the "Mynx" effect

This month we see the ASA rule on: (i) misleading claims about the quality of dashcams; (ii) whether poignant charity ads cause harm and offence; (iii) sexual innuendos in dating ads; (iv) whether using paid actors is misleading; and (v) superiority claims against rival competitors. 

The ASA get Fussy about competitor claims

What was complained about? Two social media posts portrayed an image of a fictitious deodorant product called ‘Mynx’, featuring similar branding to a real branded-deodorant product. One post’s caption stated, “£733 million is wasted on unwanted gifts each year. So what do you think to a sustainable alternative to the UK’s top Christmas selling gift set?”. The posts included the disclaimers that “this is not a real product nor is it based or associated with anything real.” The ASA considered whether the ad discredited or denigrated a competitor product.

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ads breached the CAP Code as they went beyond a robust and objective comparison of a competitor product. Fussy Ltd had stated that the post was not promoting a real product;  however the ASA considered the similarities between the ‘Mynx’ design and their competitor's branding, including the name and colour scheme, and found the ads included a comparison with an identifiable competitor, since consumers would view the ad as an indirect reference to the competitor products. The ASA stated that the posts conveyed the impression that the competitor products were of little value by using pejorative terms such as “unwanted gifts” and the fictitious name ‘Mynx,’ which was also considered a derogatory to consumers of the competitor brand.

What are the ramifications? The ruling underscores the importance of fairness and objectivity in comparative advertising. The ASA’s decision serves as a caution for marketers to avoid i) Derogatory Comparisons – Comparisons should be based on factual, verifiable, and representative features without derogatory or demeaning language. ii) Brand Imitation – Using similar branding or product titles to make indirect references will not be accepted when they are used to discredit or denigrate competitors. This ruling serves as a reminder to advertisers that the ASA will always consider ads through the eyes of a consumer, and not on a technical or literal interpretation.

Caught on dashcam - the ASA assesses exaggerated claims

What was complained about? The ASA examined a Next Base ad for three dash cam models. The ad stated that the dash cams had  “Enhanced Night Vision” and were “capable of picking up the finer details…even in extreme low-light conditions”. The complainant challenged whether the ad misleadingly exaggerated the ability of the products to capture detail in low light conditions.

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ad showed high resolution footage of several cars travelling on the motorway at night time. The ASA noted that this footage was stock photo footage to which Next Base had amended. The ASA ruled that consumers seeing the ad would assume that the footage featured was taken using the advertised dash cams. As a result, the use of that image in the ad was found to be misleading.

What are the ramifications? Advertisers wishing to promote products by providing examples of the products' capabilities must ensure that those examples genuinely reflect the quality of the advertised product.   

The long goodbye by Alzheimer’s Society 

What was complained about? During March and April 2024, Alzheimer’s Society aired three TV ads and one radio ad as part of their 'The Long Goodbye' campaign. These ads prompted 235 complaints from the public, who found the content distressing, offensive, and irresponsible. Alzheimer’s Society acknowledged that the ads could evoke strong emotions, but emphasised the importance of conveying the truth about dementia. The ads were approved by Clearcast and Radiocentre, and the Alzheimer’s Society ensured they were not shown in media accessible to children. Clearcast supported the ads, considering Alzheimer’s Society an authority on the subject that would act responsibly. 

What was the ruling? Not Upheld. ASA investigated the complaints under BCAP Code and considered the emotional impact of the ads. They found the ads to be an accurate reflection of a family's experience living with dementia. They believed the public would understand the overall message and support raising awareness of Alzheimer's Society's role in supporting those with dementia. Although the ads evoked distress and strong emotions, the ASA felt that the overall message was justified.

What are the ramifications? Although an ad of this nature can be distressing, charity advertising has an important role in raising public awareness. Charities run ads which some find distressing however this is justified as their purpose is not trivial - it is to highlight the significance of a particular issue. 

Sexual innuendos spicing up online dating 

What was complained about? Two adverts on the PURE dating App (Online Classified AG) were seen in March 2024 for implied sexual references such as “IT’S A GOOD DAY TO GET SOME HEAD” through cartoon imagery. The adverts were displayed near two schools and complainants suggested the ads were offensive and inappropriate.

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ASA reviewed both adverts and upheld the complaint due to the ad's lack of responsible advertising and it's offensive nature. They found that (i) the cartoon-style imagery alongside the sexual innuendos would be considered sexualised by most of the public (ii) the ads were in untargeted media, and in particular in close proximity to nearby schools and older children may understand the sexual innuendos and have an understanding for the slang terms used.

What are the ramifications? In situations like this, advertisers may consider that the use of innuendo and cartoons can make adverts light-hearted rather than as explicit sexual content. However, caution must be taken when using any kind of sexualised wording or imagery in a way which is “overtly sexual”, particularly in untargeted media where ads are likely to be seen by lots of people, including children. For further information on where the line is drawn see our guide to Sexualised Imagery in Advertising. 

The cons of using (very muscular) paid actors 

What was complained about? A TikTok ad for the Health Coaching Company @BetterMe, portrayed a muscular customer of their 28-day ‘Calisthenic Challenge’ promoting its benefits alongside a disclaimer which read "*Actor portrayal". In the ad, the man claimed that he “didn’t even go to the gym” yet was able to achieve his impressive physique through “one of the greatest workout plans in the entire market”. The complainant believed that they were misled into thinking they could achieve this same physique through the advertised workout plan. 

What was the ruling? Upheld. The ASA found the ad to mislead consumers into believing they could achieve a similar muscular physique within 28 days, without going to the gym. There were no ‘before’ images, nor any reference to the actor’s prior fitness, suggesting that substantial muscle mass could be gained through simply taking part in the short programme. Qualification in the ad that the ad contained an ‘actor portrayal’ in small, white font, which only appeared onscreen briefly, was insufficient to alert viewers on the reality of the actor’s progress.   

What are the ramifications? The ASA’s decision serves as a clear warning to brands, reminding them to substantiate any claims made within their advertisements. Disclaimers within ads must also be clearly displayed and should not contradict the content of the ad itself. Such precautions are crucial to avoiding over-exaggerated or misleading product representations to consumers.


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