A TV ad for the Amazon Echo Dot, seen on 5 October, featured people using the device in different situations. In the first of these, a man’s voice said, “Alexa, re-order Purina cat food”. The “Alexa” virtual assistant was then heard saying, “I’ve found Purina cat food. Would you like to buy it?”.
The complainant, who said their Echo Dot had placed an order for cat food after the ad played, challenged whether the statement “Alexa, re-order Purina cat food” was socially irresponsible.
Amazon Europe Core Sarl (Amazon) said that they had technology in place to prevent their ads from interacting with the devices of their customers. They marked ads so that when played, they did not trigger responses from customers’ devices. They had further processes in place in case that technology did not work for any reason. Customers were requested to confirm a purchase in order for it to be effective and if they did not, it would be automatically cancelled. Amazon confirmed that the complainant’s device did have a purchase order for Purina Cat Food for the day the ad was seen, which had been immediately cancelled by the customer. However, if the customer had not cancelled the order themselves, it would have been automatically cancelled and refunded in accordance with the additional processes they had in place.
Clearcast stated that Amazon had assured them during the clearance process that there was a security step in place so that people would have to verbally confirm an order placed via the Echo once Alexa asked for further confirmation. Amazon had also advised them that there was technology in place to stop audio from the ad setting off Amazon devices in viewers’ homes. Therefore they were satisfied that the ad was not socially irresponsible.
The ASA acknowledged that Amazon had taken measures to prevent their ads interacting with devices that might “overhear” them. In spite of this, the instruction “Alexa, re-order Purina cat food”, as stated in the ad, had caused the complainant’s Echo device to initiate an order for cat food. However, we understood from Amazon that purchases were required to be actively confirmed by the customer before a transaction was undertaken. In this instance, the complainant had cancelled the order themselves, but we understood that had they not done so, the order would nonetheless have been cancelled automatically. Therefore we understood that it would not be possible for a purchase to be made without the account owner’s knowledge, even in instances where technology, intended to stop ads interacting with devices, had not been effective. We concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility), but did not find it in breach.
No further action required.