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ASA Adjudication on TUI UK Ltd

TUI UK Ltd t/a Thomson

Wigmore House
Wigmore Lane
Luton
Bedfordshire
LU2 9TN

Date:

28 May 2008

Media:

Television, Regional press

Sector:

Holidays and travel

Number of complaints:

6

Complaint Ref:

38339

Ad

An ad campaign for Thomson economy air travel, appearing in posters, regional and national press and on TV, stated that Thomson provided "more legroom in long haul economy than BA or Virgin". The press ad also stated "33" legroom" whilst the TV ad stated "33" seat pitch". The poster and press ads depicted a line-drawn animation of a passenger reading or reclining with his legs stretched out. The TV ad showed a passenger reading and then putting his seat back and reclining with his hands behind his head.

Issue

1. Four complainants believed the press and poster ads were misleading because they believed they visually exaggerated the distance between the seats and the available legroom.

2. Two viewers believed the TV ad was misleading because they believed it visually exaggerated the distance between seats and the available legroom.

3. One complainant believed the press ad was misleading because he believed "33" legroom" was inaccurate. He believed the actual legroom was likely to be approximately 12" and "33" seat pitch" was more likely to be a correct description.

CAP Code (Edition 11)

BCAP TV Code

5.2.2 5.1

Response

1. TUI UK Ltd trading as Thomson (Thomson) said they believed the format in which the poster and print ads were executed should be taken into consideration. They believed most consumers would not misinterpret the ads or think they exaggerated the actual leg room available.

2. Clearcast responded to the complaints about the TV ad on Thomson's behalf. They said the ad had been thoroughly discussed and re-edited before it was cleared for broadcast. They said, because on-screen text stated "33" seat pitch", the ad did not mislead.

3. Thomson said the term "seat pitch" was only understandable to airline industry staff and not necessarily to the everyday travelling consumer. They said "legroom" was more generally used in the industry to convey to the consumer the distance between one seat and the back of another in front. They attached a series of internal photographs of someone sitting in a Thompson economy long haul flight seat.

Assessment

1. Upheld

The ASA noted that the press and poster ads were executed in a cartoon-like style that was intended to be impressionistic rather than literal. However, we considered that the drawings combined with the positioning of text stating "33" legroom" (which was placed directly in front of one passenger's legs and behind the back of the seat in front) gave the impression the space available was greater than it was. We considered it was unclear which distance the 33" measurement referred to. We concluded that, whilst frequent flyers might be likely to understand the impressionistic nature of the ad, other consumers who flew less often could be misled as to the actual space available on-board.

On this point the press and poster ads breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).

2. Upheld

We noted superscript stated "33" seat pitch" and considered that this made clear how the space was measured. However, we also noted that the TV ad showed the passenger reclining in his seat and stretching out, and that a large gap still appeared between him and the other passengers both immediately in front and behind. We noted the line-drawn quality of the ad, but nevertheless considered that it could mislead as to the actual space available on-board.

On this point the TV ad breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1 (Misleading advertising) and 5.2.2 (Misleading advertising: implications).

3. Upheld

We noted the advertiser's explanation that "seat pitch" was unlikely to be understood by the average consumer, and they had therefore used the term "legroom" as a substitute for "seat pitch" in their non-broadcast ads. However, we noted "seat pitch" was an agreed industry measurement on aircraft, extending from one point on a seat to the same point on the seat in front (commonly the back of one seat to the back of the next) whereas there was no standard agreed measurement for "legroom". We understood "legroom" and "seat pitch" were often treated as equivalent in the industry. However, we considered this would not be understood by all consumers, and considered that, in the context of the impressionistic drawings and the positioning of the text stating "33" legroom" without any indication of how the distance was measured, the press ad could mislead.

On this point the press ad breached CAP Code clause 7.1 (Truthfulness).

Action

The ads should not be repeated in their current form.

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Broadcast)

Adjudication of the ASA Council (Non-broadcast)

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