A TV ad for Compare The Market seen on 23 July 2018. The ad showed four people at a dining table, including a meerkat character that said, “Everyone please, please order as many teeny tiny tapas as you wish. Thanks to your amiga, Sally, switching energy through Compare the Market I'm here to split the bill with you all”. Text along the bottom of the ad stated “Qualifying purchase. 2 for 1 on equivalent starters, mains and desserts. Cheapest free. Sun-Thurs. Participating restaurants. Booking required. Max 6 people. Exc. Kids meals, drinks and certain days. App only. T&C’s only”. The character later said, “Introducing Meerkat meals. Get 2 for 1 on food when you buy through Compare The Market.” Prominent text at the top of the screen stated “MEERKAT MEALS. 2 FOR 1 ON STARTERS, MAINS AND DESSERTS“.
Two complainants, who understood the deal was not available to anyone who did not have a smartphone or smart device, challenged whether ad was misleading.
Compare the Market Ltd said their products were exclusively digital and it was therefore appropriate that they used an app to supply the Meerkat Meals offer. They said that a digital app-based membership that required members to log on was the best way to minimise the risk of any fraudulent use of the offer.
Compare the Market said that the ad made the "App only" condition clear through use of on-screen superimposed text. They said the ad did not contradict the condition as it did not claim that the offer was accessible via other means. They said that in line with BCAP Guidance for on-screen text and subtitling in TV ads, consideration was given to keeping on-screen text to a minimum so viewers could understand the messages. The size of the text was reviewed prior to transmission to ensure it was easily readable, with drop shadows applied where necessary, the text was held on screen for a duration of no less than five words per second plus an additional 3-second recognition period as the text contained more than 10 words.
Compare the Market said short and simple sentences were used to aid comprehension; no jargon or unfamiliar words were used and background/text colour combinations that were difficult to read were avoided. They said the ad encouraged viewers to visit the website within which significant conditions (including the use of the app) were available.
Clearcast said that the ad clearly stated that a smart phone or smart device was needed to take advantage of the offer which the superimposed text "App only" communicated. They said the text was held for the recommended time at the correct size and legibility. They said the text did not contradict the main message that 2 for 1 meals were available to consumers who used Compare the Market.
The ASA considered that, in the absence of information to indicate otherwise, consumers would understand from the claims “Thanks to your amiga, Sally, switching energy through Compare the Market I'm here to split the bill with you all”, “Get 2 for 1 on food when you buy through Compare The Market”, and “2 FOR 1 ON STARTERS, MAINS AND DESSERTS" that there were no significant exemptions on who were eligible to receive two meals for the price of one for those customers who used Compare the Market services.
We considered that because the offer was only redeemable through the app this was material information about the Meerkat Meals promotion. Viewers would otherwise believe they could use the Compare the Market website to take advantage of the offer.
However, the requirement to use the app was not referred to in the voice-over, in the large on-screen text or otherwise referenced during the ad by one of the characters. While we noted that “App only” appeared in on-screen text at the bottom of the screen during one section of the ad in which the Meerkat Meals offer was mentioned, that same text was not repeated later when the offer was mentioned again. We considered, therefore, the inclusion of the qualification in the on-screen text at the bottom of the screen was insufficient to counter the overriding message of the ad that all customers who used Compare the Market services could redeem the offer of two meals for the price of one.
Because the ad did not make sufficiently clear to consumers that the offer was only available through the Compare the Market app, when that was material information for consumers, we concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify.
Qualifications must be presented clearly.
BCAP has published Guidance on Superimposed Text to help television broadcasters ensure compliance with rule 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. . The guidance is available at:
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Compare the Market Ltd to ensure the qualification “App only” was included in the main body of the ad.