A TV ad for the Emmerdale Studio Experience, seen in August 2016, featured a woman being transported from her kitchen to a field, to a room with costumes where she handled a blouse and then to indoor sets including one with crew in the background. The final scene showed her in the bar of The Woolpack with other visitors looking around the bar area. Clips of dialogue from Emmerdale were played throughout the ad, and a final voice-over stated, “Step into the drama. The Emmerdale Studio Experience”.
Two complainants challenged whether ad misleadingly exaggerated the features of the attraction.
ITV Broadcasting Ltd, which produced the ad, said the Emmerdale Studio Experience was located at a studio where the interior scenes for Emmerdale used to be shot, until the majority of filming was moved to a different studio. They said the tour aimed to give visitors an insight into the types of processes involved in the production of Emmerdale.
The ad opened with the protagonist watching Emmerdale in her kitchen. The subsequent narrative was an imagined dream sequence of what her ‘Emmerdale experience’ could be. Through soundbites from the show, artefacts and scenery, she experienced the drama and excitement of TV production before ending up in The Woolpack in a puff of smoke. They said the ad was framed throughout around her reaction to her changing fantastical environment, ending with the line “Step into the drama”.
ITV said the ad was purposely not a step-by-step guide to what visitors would see, partly because the intention was to keep an element of surprise. The ad therefore did not say that visitors would visit the actual sets. The sets at the attraction were instead exact replicas. They said that in the fourth scene of the ad, the woman was shown on the Smithy Cottage set, with some defocused lights and a camera in the background. On the tour, visitors could film their own piece to camera on that set; the crew seen in the background of the ad were performing the same function as the guide who operated the camera at the attraction. ITV said the shot was consciously framed in such a way that it showed that the attraction was intended to be immersive and interactive as opposed to being only a static exhibition.
They said that no exterior sets of Emmerdale were shown during the ad. The brief shot of fields was simply to illustrate the woman’s transformation from her domestic suburban environment to the Yorkshire Dales. There was a quarter-scale model village of Emmerdale at the attraction, but it was not referred to in the ad.
ITV said the sequence where the woman handled a costume was a metaphor for how the Experience was brought to life with authentic artefacts from the programme. They confirmed that a range of costumes from the show were exhibited, but said it would be impractical for them to be handled by hundreds of people each day.
They said that in the Woolpack set, visitors were invited to pose behind the bar for a picture which was available for purchase. Visitors were free to wander around the set both as they entered and left.
Continuum (Entertainment) Ltd said the ad was delivered in partnership with ITV, but said they were not involved in its production.
Clearcast said the ad was submitted to them at script stage, when confirmation of the tour experience was also provided. The ad was confirmed to be an accurate representation of the experience, where visitors would be able to visit a replica of The Woolpack, record a short message to camera on a replica set of Smithy’s cottage, and where fans could get a feel for the production of the show on location.
They said the purpose of the ad was to give viewers the feeling that they would be transported into the world of Emmerdale. The ad showed some of the elements of the attraction which visitors could visit and view, including sets, studio visits, dressing rooms, costume sections, and make-up areas, while showcasing a fan of the show fully immersed in the experience of the visit.
The ad depicted the sudden transportation of the protagonist from her kitchen to a field, followed by a series of sudden switches between indoor environments and experiences, while dialogue from the show was played. The ASA acknowledged there was a fantastical element to the ad’s portrayal of the attraction, but we considered consumers would understand from the ad that the attraction was an immersive experience which incorporated the various experiences depicted.
While we noted that the experiences depicted in the ad were in the main based on different elements of the attraction, we considered that the ad, particularly through the inclusion of the outdoor field location, the scene in which the woman handled costumes and the scene with crew working in the background, implied that visitors would have a more immersive, wide-ranging and dramatic experience than we understood the attraction provided. We therefore concluded the ad misleadingly exaggerated the features of the attraction.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Advertisements must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.12 3.12 Advertisements must not mislead by exaggerating the capability or performance of a product or service. (Exaggeration).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Continuum (Entertainment) Ltd and ITV Broadcasting Ltd to ensure that ads for the attraction did not misleadingly exaggerate the experience visitors would have.