A radio ad, for Comparethemarket.com, began with the sound of a ringing telephone and a woman answering. The meerkat Aleksandr Orlov said, "Hello Mrs Ramsey, congratulations on choose [sic] second meerkat toy after you renew your hardtop car insurance through Comparethemarket.com". The ad ended with Aleksandr Orlov saying, "To collect more exclusive meerkat toys, buy your car or home insurance or get credit card through Comparethemarket.com".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because it implied that current insurance policies could be renewed through Comparethemarket.com.
Comparethemarket.com (CTM) said the term "renew" referred to the process by which an annual insurance policy expired and was replaced by a new annual policy. They believed that to be the common understanding of the term and therefore not misleading. They considered the ad clearly related to the provision of a meerkat toy to consumers who renewed their car insurance through comparethemarket.com.
CTM said they had sent out nearly 100,000 toys since the 'renewal' ad campaign began but they could only trace two customers who had raised issues about the provision of the meerkat toy gift. They believed that demonstrated their customers understood the ad. They said the toys were first made available in July 2011 and so the new ad campaign, which referenced renewals through CTM, was deliberately initiated one year later with the specific aim of incentivising customers who had originally taken out policies to go back to CTM, re-test the market, and after completing the application process, purchase another insurance policy. They clarified that, so long as customers followed the full CTM process, they would receive a second meerkat toy even if they purchased insurance from the same company as that which provided their expiring policy.
The Radio Advertising Clearance Centre (RACC) said they believed it was generally understood that only an insurance company or broker could 'renew' someone's existing insurance policy. They believed the nature of the service provided by CTM, and other similar companies, was well-understood. They were aggregators that did not broker policies but provided customers with a means to compare prices, while the actual writing of the policy was done by the insurer.
The ASA considered most listeners would understand that CTM was a comparison website rather than an insurance broker, and therefore that it only had the provision to make new comparisons rather than to renew expiring policies with insurance companies or brokers. Most consumers would be aware that to renew an existing policy they could only do so through the company or broker from whom they had purchased the policy. We therefore considered that in the context of the ad, it was clear that the term "renew" referred to those consumers who had previously purchased insurance through CTM and, on the expiry of that policy, chose to go through the CTM comparison process again when purchasing a new policy. Because we understood that all customers who followed that process would receive a toy, regardless of whether they purchased their new policy from a new company or the same company that provided their expiring policy, we concluded the ad was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting material information. They must not mislead by hiding material information or presenting it in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
Material information is information that consumers need in context to make informed decisions about whether or how to buy a product or service. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead consumers depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the advertisement is constrained by time or space, the measures that the advertiser takes to make that information available to consumers by other means. (Misleading advertising) and 3.25 3.25 Advertisements must make clear the extent of the commitment consumers must make to take advantage of a "free" offer.
Advertisements must not describe items as "free" if: ("Free" claims), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.