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.

Marketers often use front pages flashes to announce various types of promotion, ranging from free product offers to discounts and money off vouchers, to draw attention to the promotion and attract new readers.

These front page flashes are often limited by space, which can raise problems under the CAP Code if ads do not contain enough information.  Rule 8.29 states that consumers should know from a front-page flash whether they will have to make multiple-purchases of the publication and that marketers should ensure that their front page flashes include all major conditions that might influence consumers significantly in their decision to buy.

Include all major conditions

A decision over which conditions should be included in the ad will vary depending on the specific promotion.  However, information which should be made clear in the ad is likely to include: whether consumers will need to make multiple purchases of the publication; unless obvious, whether or not the promotional item is included with the publication; whether additional costs apply, such as postage and packaging; whether an item is free; any restrictions, such as geographical or personal restrictions; and limitations on availability.

Marketers should bear in mind that rule 8.29 states that consumers should know from a front-page flash whether they will have to make multiple-purchases of the publication.  Examples include token or point collect promotions, where a consumer is expected to collect tokens from multiple editions of a publication to claim an offer.  In 2012 the ASA ruled against a marketer’s ad because it stated “FREE DVD Best of the Jubilee celebrations WITH SATURDAY'S Daily Mail", but did not make it clear that consumers would need to collect tokens from multiple issues of the publication in order to claim (Associated Newspapers, 29 August 2012).  As well as stating that additional purchases are required, marketers should also clearly state the number publications the consumer would need to buy in order to qualify for the promotion advertised.

The front page flash should make it clear if the promotional item is included with the publication.  A front page flash which stated "£5 OFF SHOPPING AT TESCO WHEN YOU SPEND £40 DETAILS: PAGE XX" was found to be in breach because the ASA considered that consumers would understand that this discount offer was included in the publication and was available only to readers, for example in the form of a money-off coupon, whereas in reality any customer who spent £40 in store would then receive a £5 voucher to use against their next shop.  (Express Newspapers t/a Daily Star & Daily Express, 18 July 2012).

Describe the offer accurately

Whilst they may be limited by space, marketers should ensure that the offer is described accurately to the consumer.  

More guidance on these common problems is outlined in the CAP Advertising Guidance on Front-page Flashes.

This advice is designed to be read in conjunction with the Promotional marketing section of the CAP Code and the other entries in this advice section.  Also, promoters might want to seek legal advice.

Updated 4 April 2017

More on