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ASA Adjudication on Maximiles UK Ltd

Maximiles UK Ltd

Unit 2
Union Court Lofts
20–22 Union Road
London
SW4 6JP

Date:

23 May 2012

Media:

E-mail

Sector:

Non-commercial

Number of complaints:

1

Complaint Ref:

A12-186681

Ad

An e-mail, sent to members of a reward scheme, viewed in February 2012, included the subject line "[name of recipient], Living with cancer? You don't have to go through it alone".

The header of the e-mail stated the recipient's current balance of points and further text stated "Collect 5 points when you click through to find out more about Macmillan". The ad included a testimonial from a cancer sufferer and outlined the work performed by the charity. Further text stated "Help someone with cancer To provide our services, we rely completely on the supporters who give their money, time and energy to help people living with cancer. So if you're not facing cancer yourself right now, click here to find out how you can help those who are".

Issue

The complainant objected that the subject line was offensive and distressing.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

Response

Maximiles said they operated an opt-in policy on all communications and said they selected campaigns based on members' preferences and profiles. They said the use of members' first names in the subject line was common practice within all their marketing communications and therefore believed recipients would be used to this practice.

Maximiles said cancer was an upsetting topic, but believed the subject line had been dealt with in a tactful, compassionate way that promoted an important message, but was least likely to cause distress.

Macmillan said they had designed the e-mail content to be suitable for all readers, so that any recipient would be able to contact Macmillan for advice and support. They said the e-mail was targeted towards females aged 35 years and over, but was also distributed to a diverse list of recipients.

Macmillan said they approved the subject line "Living with cancer? You don't have to go through it alone". They said the recipient's name had been added by Maximiles without their knowledge or consent and said that such personalisation of the subject line contravened their internal policy. They acknowledged that a communication relating to the issues of cancer may be regarded by some as distressing. However, they believed the subject line which they had approved was appropriate given the nature of the work their organisation carried out and that the supportive intention behind the subject line was made clear by the content of the e-mail.

Macmillan said the subject line was factual and that they had nationwide services in place to offer support and guidance to people living with, and affected by, cancer. They said the case study within the body of the e-mail related directly to the subject line and demonstrated the support offered.

Assessment

Upheld

The ASA noted Maximiles selected campaigns based on members' preferences and that they used members' first names in the subject line of all their marketing communications. We also noted Macmillan aimed to raise awareness of the support and guidance they offered people living with, and affected by, cancer and that such a distressing subject was likely to cause discomfort when presented in any medium. Nevertheless, we took the view that any discomfort inherent in the subject of cancer suffering ought to be balanced by the worthwhile purpose of raising awareness of the support available.

We noted, however, that while marketing communications related to cancer might in some instances be inherently distressing, if it was justified, any distress caused should not be excessive. We considered the use of the recipient's name in conjunction with the claim "Living with cancer? You don't have to go through it alone" personalised a distressing subject and was therefore likely to cause excessive distress and serious or widespread offence.

On that basis, we concluded the ad breached the Code.

The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 4.1 and 4.2 (Harm and Offence).

Action

The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Maximiles and Macmillan to ensure future ads did not cause fear or distress without justifiable reason; if it could be justified, the fear or distress should not be excessive.

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