Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the Advertising Standards Authority.
Subjective claims do not usually need to be supported by evidence as long as it is clear that marketers are expressing an opinion and not stating a fact (Rule 3.6). Marketers should not try to quote opinions or testimonials to make claims that would not otherwise be acceptable and merely putting quotation marks round a claim does not necessarily render it acceptable (see below).
Some claims might be considered subjective in one context but objective in another. For example, the ASA has considered that “best value”, when used in the context of price, might be seen to be a claim to be the cheapest. In other contexts, such as quality of service, composition and specification of product and other, more intangible aspects of good or service, “value” might be seen as more subjective (Ultravox Holdings Ltd, 22 August 2007). Similarly, the ASA has considered as objective, claims such as “best”, “favourite” (best-selling) and “ultimate” (best-performing) in some contexts but subjective in others. Claims about matters of subjective interpretation are likely to include those that refer to the look, taste or feel of a product (for example ”the best fish and chips in the North”, “best-looking car on the market” or “snuggle down with the world’s coziest blanket”) or claims about the product experience. See ‘Types of Claims: Subjective or Objective Superlative’ for other examples.
Certain types of claims, such as those made by pressure groups, charities or campaigners are likely to promote one point of view over another. Such groups are not obliged to present a balance of for- and against- arguments in their ads (Lydd Airport Action Group, 27 June 2007) but are expected to ensure their claims are accurate and backed by evidence (Save Darfur Coalition, 8 August 2007).
The Code states that the ASA does not arbitrate between conflicting ideologies and, if marketers are obviously expressing opinions about their beliefs, the ASA is unlikely to intervene unless marcoms mislead or offend.
Testimonials expressing opinions may be used but, if they relate to a claim that can be measured objectively (for example, a product’s efficacy), the claim should be supported with independent evidence of its accuracy. In 2006, the ASA rejected a complaint about animal experiments. Because the claim “it is astonishing that animal testing has never been scientifically evaluated and the process is long overdue” was attributed clearly to an MP, the ASA considered the advertiser did not need to support the claim. Marketers should remember that testimonials should not mislead or be likely to mislead the consumer (Rule 3.47)
Also see 'Substantiation', 'Testimonials & Endorsements' and 'Types of Claims'.