Voted the ‘best’? Comparisons based on surveys or awards

Every marketer wants to promote their products in the best possible light and may, understandably, want to shout about receiving awards or share the favourable results of consumer surveys. However, using awards or surveys to make comparisons can sometimes lead to problematic claims and marketers should check the rules before doing so.

Simply put, if a claim is likely to be interpreted as factual, marketers should ensure they hold objective evidence to support the claim. In addition, comparisons with identifiable competitors must be verifiable.

Objective claims require objective data

Before making any claims, marketers should consider how consumers are likely to interpret that claim in the context of the ad.

All objective claims, which are not considered ‘puffery’, must be supported by sufficient evidence. Claims like “Best Network for Data” are likely to be understood as objective claims, and therefore, must be supported by objective data. It will not be acceptable to base this type of objective claim on the results of a consumer survey or a third-party award, without any objective data which substantiates the claim.

The ASA has also upheld against “best” claims like “the network voted Britain’s Best for Coverage”, because they were based on the results of a customer survey, rather than an objective comparison.

Even if the claim communicates the outcome of a survey which tested something subjective, such as "Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree", the claim will still be considered an objective claim about the outcome of that survey, and marketers must have evidence to demonstrate that the results of the survey support the claim made and are accurately described.

Make comparisons with identifiable competitors verifiable

Additional rules apply to comparisons with 'identifiable' competitors. If a consumer can identify at least one competitor that is being compared, whether or not it is identified explicitly in the ad, rules 3.33 – 3.40 will apply. Superiority claims are likely to be considered comparisons with identifiable competitors because they are, by nature, drawing a comparison with all competitors. 

Code rule 3.35 states that comparisons must “objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable, and representative feature of those products, which may include price”.

To make a claim verifiable, the advertiser should set out the relevant information in the ad or signpost how the information used to make that comparison can be checked by the audience. The information provided must be readily accessible to consumers.

This information must also be sufficient to verify the claim.

Customer surveys, awards based on subjective opinions, and self-reported consumer data will not be sufficient to verify a claim that requires objective substantiation.

For more information on this topic see our guidance on ‘Comparisons based on surveys or awards’ and ‘Telecoms: Comparisons’.

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