Ads attributed to “Solasta Finance”, promoting the BBC TV programme Clique, were seen on 7 March 2017.
a. A website, www.solastafinance.co.uk, promoted Solasta Finance, referred to job opportunities at the company, and included staff profiles.
b. a Facebook page referred to recruitment opportunities at Solasta Finance. It also included links to articles about women in the workplace, alongside posts containing aspirational images and motivational messages associated with the business world. It included a link to the website.
c. a Twitter feed @solastafinance contained similar content to ad (b).
d. an Instagram feed contained similar content to ad (b).
The complainant challenged whether the ads were obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
The British Broadcasting Corporation t/a BBC (BBC) stated Clique was a BBC3 drama which focused on two female university students getting involved with the mysterious company Solasta Finance and examined issues such as sexism, feminism and capitalism. The series debuted on 5 March 2017 and concluded on 9 April 2017.
The advertising materials were not initially explicitly branded as being BBC Three, and were intended to spark intrigue and maximise discussion about Solasta Finance and its ‘Women’s Initiative’, to engender discussion about some of the issues in the series.
The BBC said the unbranded phase of the campaign, when the connection to BBC Three was not made explicit, began on 19 February and lasted for five days. There was then a full ‘reveal’ with overt BBC Three branding and attribution. Before then the website featured a countdown clock (to the reveal date). If a user clicked on the countdown clock they were taken to the Clique programme page on bbc.co.uk, highlighting that the website was in fact linked to a BBC TV show.
Once the reveal was made, some posts resurfaced and new ones were created to clarify that Solasta Finance was linked to a TV show. All of the relevant social media content, both before and after the reveal, was linked via the campaign hashtag “#doyouhavewhatittakes”. They said the online content complained of was a very small part of a much bigger on-air and off-air marketing campaign for Clique. The campaign included TV trailers and press activity and lasted for six weeks.
They added that they built a number of “clues” into the creative used in the unbranded part of the campaign to heavily hint to audiences that Solasta Finance was not a genuine company, and that the notices posted on social media and the Solasta Finance website were not all they might seem. The “clues” included the appearance of a well-known television actress playing the lead role in the Solasta Finance recruitment video, the use of glitches and special effects in the videos and the theatrical rhetoric of the scripts. They also pointed out that much of the content was presented as advertising for Solasta, so while the BBC Three connection might not have been explicit at the outset, they believed it would still have been identified as marketing of some form by the intended audience.
They added that the BBC received no complaints about any aspect of the Clique marketing campaign via the BBC’s formal complaints system which received, on average, in excess of 200,000 complaints per year.
The ASA acknowledged that the ads in social media released at the start of the campaign did not expressly refer to BBC3 or expressly indicate that the ads related to a TV drama. We understood, however, that the social media accounts linked to the Solasta Finance website (ad a), which in turn linked to the Clique programme page on the BBC website.
We considered that ads for Solasta Finance placed after the 'reveal' on 24 February, and which contained BBC branding, would be understood to relate to a BBC TV show.
We considered that the ads which appeared before the reveal were likely to be, at first glance, understood to be for a business called Solasta Finance. However, we noted that the ads did not make specific claims about the nature of the Solasta Finance business or the work it might carry out, but were instead formed of generic statements, predominately about women in the workplace, likely to be interpreted as inspirational or aspirational messages. However, we also considered that many readers would also see the posts as controversial or understand them to be deliberately seeking controversy, and would note that that was unusual for a financial brand. We therefore considered many readers would not take the ads at face value or see them as literal messages and would consider there was an air of mystery and strangeness about the ads, and were likely to understand that there was something more to Solasta Finance than it being a conventional business or financial company.
We also considered that many readers, particularly in the context of social media, were generally familiar with the concept of a 'reveal', where initial posts might be mysterious or deliberately ambiguous. We considered readers would further understand that the initial posts were intended to provide limited information or clues, but that, over time, they would be presented with a series of subsequent posts or a 'reveal' post which would allow them to build up and gain a full understanding. We considered that, in light of the mysterious and unconventional nature of the initial content, readers seeing the initial posts from the Solasta Finance media account and the website would be expecting further information to follow.
We noted that some of the content referred in general terms to employment at Solasta Finance, and considered whether they might initially be interpreted by some readers to be offering genuine employment. However, we noted that those posts would also be seen as mysterious and peculiar; for example, the claim "new internship position available now" was immediately followed by the claim "due to unforeseen circumstances". We considered readers would therefore understand that the ads were not traditional or conventional job ads and that that contributed to the overall impression that the ads were not what they might at first seem. We further noted that the ads did not invite respondents to provide personal information in response to the references to employment opportunities or provide official means to apply for a position, as would usually be the case for a job ad.
We considered that marketers promoting a TV programme, or another creative enterprise, by focusing on a particular element or theme of the programme or content should take care to ensure their advertising was identifiable as a marketing communication and that the commercial intent was clear. We considered that that should apply to all ads within a campaign, both individually and as part of a wider series. They could do so, for example, by including channel or production branding. We acknowledged that some ads in the Solasta Finance campaign did not include overt BBC branding, however, we considered that readers would nonetheless understand that the content that they were viewing was a marketing communication with a commercial intent, and would infer that the initial posts were part of a wider campaign, which was subsequently expressly revealed to be a TV programme. On that basis, we concluded that the ads did not breach the Code.
We investigated the ads under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1 2.1 Marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such. and 2.3 2.3 Marketing communications must not falsely claim or imply that the marketer is acting as a consumer or for purposes outside its trade, business, craft or profession; marketing communications must make clear their commercial intent, if that is not obvious from the context. (Responsible marketing), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.