A magazine ad for a model engineering exhibition, seen on 10 October 2011, read "THE GREAT MODEL ENGINEERING COMPETITION London Model Engineering Exhibition" and "The London model Engineering Exhibition at Alexandra Palace is regarded as THE leading show of its kind and is proudly hosting The Great Model Engineering Competition to celebrate the Olympic year and to highlight the achievements of model engineers and attract new people to the hobby".
MyHobbyStore Ltd objected that the claim that the advertisers were the leading model engineering show was misleading as they did not believe it could be substantiated.
Meridienne Exhibitions Ltd (Meridienne) said they believed their statement that their Alexandra Palace show was “the leading show of its kind” was correct, and not misleading. They said the claim was based on the content and variety available at the show, and the number of exhibits, and said they believed the average consumer would interpret leading to refer to these qualities. Meridienne supplied an analysis of the five major model engineering exhibitions in the UK in which they listed size of the exhibition halls, the exhibits which would be displayed, the models which would be being demonstrated, the number of clubs and associations exhibiting and the numbers of various categories of trade stands which would be exhibiting. They said they were not able to provide visitor numbers for all the shows as this information was not publicly available. Meridienne said that visitors frequently travelled considerable distances to attend their exhibition and believed they would base their decision to attend primarily on content, features, clubs and companies attending. They did not believe consumers would make a decision to attend based on how many other people would attend. They said they did not intend to use the claim “the leading show of its kind" in the future as they had recently launched another show of a similar size.
The ASA noted the comparative analysis provided by Meridienne stated that their Alexandra Palace show took place in a larger exhibition hall than the other four major model engineering shows in the UK. We also noted it stated the exhibition included a number of exhibits and features that were not available at the other exhibitions. However, we also noted that the list of features were selected by Meridienne, and considered that this meant other shows might also have exhibits or features that the analysis did not refer to. We acknowledged that visitors would consider a number of factors when deciding to attend an exhibition. However, we considered that consumers would consider the claim “leading show” to refer primarily to visitor numbers, and noted that Meridienne had not provided these. We therefore concluded that Meridienne had not been able to substantiate the claim “the leading show of its kind”, and that as a result the claim was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.38 3.38 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an unidentifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer. The elements of the comparison must not be selected to give the marketer an unrepresentative advantage. (Other comparisons).
We told Meridienne not to make claims that any of their shows were “leading” without holding comparative evidence in the form of visitor numbers that this was the case.