A TV ad for Chicago Town pizza included a voice-over that said "Nothing delivers like Chicago Town Takeaway, voted number one versus Dominos" and on-screen text stated "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S". A man was shown 'delivering' a Chicago Town Takeaway pepperoni stuffed crust pizza. Text at the bottom of the screen stated "170 respondents, preference on 1 flavour, description, price and taste. Chicago Town 39%, Competitor A 37%, Domino's 24%".
A viewer challenged whether the claim "VOTED NO.1 VS DOMINO'S" was misleading and could be substantiated.
Dr Oetker (UK) Ltd t/a Chicago Town (Dr Oetker) said the sample comprised of 170 respondents from across the UK and Ireland. They said all respondents were regular buyers of both frozen and high-street takeaway pizza for in-home consumption. The sample was balanced by reference to age, gender, age and social class. They said the research was carried out by an independent market research company. Participants were served each pizza and then asked to fill in a short evaluation of each product. They said the Chicago Town pizza was prepared according to instructions and the other pizzas, from Pizza Hut and Domino's, were ordered for collection and served hot from the nearest shop. The Chicago Town pizza tested was Pepperoni Stuffed Crust, their standard stuffed crust option. The Domino's pizza tested in the UK was the Pepperoni Stuffed Crust Variant, Domino's standard stuffed crust option with cheese. In Ireland the Domino's pizza used was Classic Crust Pepperoni, as the closest possible alternative. Following tasting, participants were asked the question "Please have a look at the information shown for each of the three different pizzas you've tried today and tell us based on the DESCRIPTION, PRICE AND TASTE which one you would be most likely to buy?". They provided the descriptions of the products, which included their price but not their brand name. The Chicago Town pizza was £4.29, the Pizza Hut pizza was £10.50 and the Domino's pizza was £16.99. They said the question took account of normal consumer behaviour by asking to take the three factors into account. They said that that the differences between Chicago Town pizza (39%) and Domino's (24%) was statistically significant and that the sample size was adequate. They believed the fact that only pepperoni pizza and packaging was seen in the ad made clear that the claim related to that product only, and that the reference to "1 flavour" in the on-screen text provided further clarity. They therefore did not believe the ad implied the claim was a general superiority claim against Domino's as a whole. They did not believe the ad implied the test was head-to-head, and said this was further clarified by the on-screen text which referred to the third competitor. They said the ad also referred to their website, which gave further explanation of the claim.
Clearcast said they considered the ad contained all the relevant information that was needed to understand the claim being made. They said the reference to "voted" made clear that the claim was based on the personal opinions of consumers. The on-screen text clearly outlined the number of people who took part in the vote, the elements they were asked to vote on ("preference on 1 flavour, description, price and taste") and the percentage who voted for each product sampled. They said they accepted the difference between Chicago Town and "Competitor A" was not significant, but that because the claim was clearly based on Chicago Town versus Domino's they believe that was not material. They said they had included the reference to "Competitor A" to ensure transparency. They provided the substantiation they had been provided with to support the claim, and said that all the elements had been included in the ad. They said the products compared met the same need or intended purpose, and that they were all intended for home consumption.
We considered the claim "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S" implied that Chicago Town pizza had beaten Domino's pizza in a vote or preference test. We understood that Chicago Town pizza was purchased frozen and cooked at home by the consumer, and that Domino's pizza was for take-away or delivery. We considered that by comparing pizzas the claim compared products meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose.
We also considered that the claim "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S", in the voice-over and in on-screen text, implied the claim was based on the results of a test in which consumers were asked which product they preferred or were more likely to purchase. The question participants were asked was "... based on the DESCRIPTION, PRICE AND TASTE which one you would be most likely to buy?" and we considered the reference to "price" in the on-screen text made clear that price was a factor participants would have considered.
We acknowledged the ad featured a particular flavour of pizza. However, the claim "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S" in the voice-over and on-screen text was not linked to a particular flavour and we therefore considered the ad implied there was a preference for the Chicago Town Takeaway range in general compared to Domino's pizzas. We understood the results of the preference test were statistically significant, and that the sample had been balanced by reference to age, gender, age and social class. However, we considered the reference to "1 flavour" in the qualification contradicted the more general impression made by the claim and that a preference test of one flavour only was not sufficient to support the general claim "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S", and that the claim was therefore misleading.
We also considered that the claim "VOTED No.1 VS DOMINO'S" was presented as the results of a head-to-head test between Domino's and Chicago Town. However, the preference test involved a third competitor and 37% of participants selected that competitor when asked the question "Please have a look at the information shown for each of the three different pizzas you've tried today and tell us based on the DESCRIPTION, PRICE AND TASTE which one you would be most likely to buy?" From the data presented it was not possible to tell which of the other pizzas (Chicago Town or Domino's) this 37% of participants would have selected in a head-to-head test and we therefore considered it was misleading to imply that Chicago Town had beaten Domino's in a head-to-head test.
We concluded the claim "VOTED NO.1 VS DOMINO'S" was misleading and had not been substantiated.
The ad breached 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), 3.9 3.9 Broadcasters must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that the audience is likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation), 3.10 3.10 Advertisements must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.33 3.33 Advertisements that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, consumers about either the advertised product or service or the competing product or service. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
We also investigated the ad under BCAP Code rules 3.34 3.34 Advertisements must compare products or services meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose. and 3.35 3.35 Advertisements must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products or services, which may include price. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors), but did not find it in breach.
The ad must not be broadcast again in its current form. We told Dr Oetker (UK) Ltd not to make the claim "VOTED NO.1 VS DOMINO'S" unless it was supported by data relating to products across the relevant ranges, or it was made clear in the claim itself that it related to one flavour only. We also told them not to imply claims were based on head-to-head tests if that was not the case.