In 2017, around 70% of the complaints the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received related to misleading advertising, proving that this is an issue that consumers take seriously and that all marketers should be mindful of.
Here are our top tips to help you avoid the most common mistakes:
1. Don’t omit key information
All relevant information, including significant conditions to an offer, should be made clear in the ad itself. These should be stated close, or clearly linked, to the main claim. Significant conditions will vary depending on the circumstances, and we have further guidance on Promotional Marketing if you’re looking for more detail.
2. Make sure your pricing is clear
Pricing should relate to the product advertised, and include all non-optional charges (such as VAT and booking fees). There has been recent guidance produced for secondary ticket providers and updated guidance for the travel sector, but the principles apply across all sectors. We’ve also updated our guidance on delivery charges and VAT.
3. Don't exaggerate the capability or performance of a product
Advertising is all about presenting a product in the best possible light, but don’t over-claim in a way that’s likely to mislead. But don’t worry, obvious exaggerations that the average consumer is unlikely to take literally and that are unlikely to mislead are allowed.
4. Make sure any qualifications are clear
Qualifying text (small print or footnotes) can be used to clarify a claim in an ad, but don’t use it to hide important information or in a way that contradicts the headline claim. An ad which claimed “yearly boiler service” was found to breach the Code because it could be up to 23 months between services, but this wasn't mentioned in the ad.
5. Have the evidence to back up your claims
Remember that before you run an ad, you should hold adequate evidence to support all objective claims or those that are capable of objective substantiation, bearing in mind the impression consumers are likely to take from the ad. The level of evidence that is required will depend on the type of claim being made and the product in question. For example, for some health, beauty or slimming claims robust clinical trials may be required.
6. Be careful of claims in product names
Remember that all ad content, including your company or product names can count as potential claims. If your product name implies an unproven effect or benefit, this could be problematic – even if it appears in a pack shot.
As a final thought, it’s worth remembering that these rules apply to all marketing sectors, but some sectors have their own specific rules that you might also need to think about, such as environmental claims, weight control and slimming and food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims.
For a more detailed look at the rules surrounding misleading advertising, which cover things such as the use of testimonials and comparisons, please view Section 3 of both Ad Codes on our website.
For further advice and guidance to help you avoid misleading advertising you can contact the Copy Advice team for free, bespoke advice. We also run Advice:am seminars and offer eLearning modules on this topic.