ASA Adjudication on Center Parcs Ltd
Center Parcs Ltd
1 Edison Rise
16 May 2012
Number of complaints:
Beattie McGuinness Bungay Ltd
A TV ad for Center Parcs resorts, seen on 23 January 2012, showed families taking part in outdoor activities and included a voice-over that stated "What would you like your children to inherit? A house? A clock? The family silver? Or something a little more valuable?" On-screen text read "4 night breaks from £249 for 4 people" and smaller text read "Subject to availability. Conditions apply. Book by 31 January 2012."
A viewer challenged whether the ad was misleading because it did not make clear that the £249 break was available midweek only and that it was not available during school holidays.
Center Parcs said the ad clearly stated that the price point was £249, the booking deadline was 31 January and that conditions applied. They explained that one of those conditions was that "this offer is available on selected 4 night midweek breaks". They believed it was clear from this condition that the offer only applied to midweek breaks and that there would be selected periods throughout the year when the offer would be valid. They stated that their holidays could only be booked for three nights over a weekend, for four nights midweek or for seven nights and that it was not therefore necessary for the ad to state that the four-night break offered was only available midweek. They said the fact that those were the only durations of stay available would have been reiterated to consumers when they visited the website or called the contact centre to book.
Center Parcs did not believe consumers would have expected to be able to take a family of four (including two children of school age) on holiday at the advertised price point and they said the visual message of the ad was intended only as a general description of the Center Parcs environment, within which holidays were available at the price in the on-screen text. They provided details of the number of holidays and the travel dates available when the ad first aired. They explained that, although there were no available dates during "school holidays", those periods had not been expressly excluded and were among several other periods which were also unavailable. They said there were no defined dates that could be referred to as "school holidays" because this varied across the country. They stated that any qualification regarding available dates could not have been adequately expressed in the time allowed by the ad because new dates were added throughout the campaign. They provided details of the travel dates available on the day the complainant saw the ad and those still available on the "book by" date.
Clearcast stated that the ad had aired for quite some time without complaint. They said the ad clearly stated that £249 was only a “from” price and that the superimposed text qualified the offer by stating that it was subject to availability and that conditions applied.
The ASA noted that the “from” price of £249 and the "book by" date were both clearly stated in the ad. We noted that the ad also stated conditions applied and we understood that one of those conditions was that the offer was only available midweek. However, while we understood that the only four night breaks available at Center Parcs were midweek, we considered that some viewers would not be aware of that.
We noted that the ad stated the offer was "subject to availability" and that breaks had been available across the four holiday villages on certain travel dates throughout the campaign, with new dates added as others were sold. We considered viewers would understand from the ad that the offer would only be available at the "from" price at certain times throughout the year. However, we noted that the ad opened with the statement "What would you like your children to inherit? A house? A clock? The family silver? Or something a little more valuable?". We noted that the offer was for a break for four people and we noted that every scene of the ad showed a family of four, two adults and two children, enjoying a holiday. Although we understood that dynamic would not be representative of all groups that took advantage of the offer, we considered that the ad went further than to provide a general picture of a Center Parcs resort and implied that families with school age children would be able to take advantage of the offer.
Although we accepted that "school holidays" could not be clearly defined, we noted that the travel dates available when the ad was first broadcast were all in January, February and one date in early March. We noted that dates were subsequently added in late September, early October, November and early December. We considered that very few of the available dates were likely to coincide with the traditional holiday periods in March/April, July/August, October and December/January, when the majority of schools were likely to plan their holidays in 2012. Because the ad focused exclusively on the benefits of the resort for families with young children, we considered that the omission of information about the available travel periods, which would have alerted viewers to the fact that the offer was unlikely to be available during school holidays, was likely to mislead.
On this point the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising), 3.10 (Qualification) and 3.18 (Prices).
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Center Parcs to ensure that significant information regarding the availability of their offers was included in future.