A website and Facebook page promoted Ristorante pizza:
a. The website www.pizzaristorante.co.uk, seen on 11 March 2016, promoted frozen pizzas. The cover photo featured an image of a pizza alongside the claim “Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree.*”. Further text stated "All you had to do was purchase a promotional pack and respond to three statements to receive a voucher for your free Dr. Oetker Ristorante pizza, regardless of whether you agreed with the statements or not.*". Smaller text stated "*Survey of 58,037 UK Ristorante buyers between 17th August 2015 - 2nd November 2015 and 2,000 ROI Ristorante buyers between 11th September 2015 - 31st October 2015 among all Ristorante buyers including first-time and repeat buyers of pizza. 52,700 (90%) UK and 1,829 (91%) ROI participants agreed with the statement "Ristorante has the best pizzeria taste of any pizza I have purchased to cook at home". Further text featured the quote "Ristorante has the best pizzeria taste of any pizza I have purchased to cook at home" and provided the percentages of respondents who strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement.
b. The Facebook page seen in March 2016 included a cover photo of a pizza alongside the claim “Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree*”.
Two Sisters Food Group Ltd (Goodfella’s Pizza) challenged whether the claim "Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree" in ads (a) and (b) was misleading and could be substantiated.
Dr Oetker (UK) Ltd explained that respondents were asked whether they strongly agreed, agreed, disagreed or strongly disagreed with three statements. The headline claim was based on every response to statement 1: “Ristorante has the best pizzeria taste of any pizza I have purchased to cook at home”; 53,024 of 58,037 (90.81%) respondents agreed or strongly agreed with that statement.
Dr Oetker said the survey had polled an extensive number of participants, who were asked to compare their Dr. Oetker Ristorante pizza with any other home-cooked pizza. They believed it was a legitimate comparison to make, and did not believe that consumers were required to have tasted a statistically significant number of other home-cooked pizzas in order to decide whether they agreed with the statement. They also pointed out that ad (a) made clear what the headline claim was based on and how the survey had been conducted.
Dr Oetker said prior to participating in the survey, it was made clear to participants that the free pizza voucher was available whether they liked or disliked the product. The accompanying terms and conditions made clear that a full refund was also available for those who disliked the product. Participants would not therefore feel obliged to agree with the survey’s statement to ensure they received a free voucher. They said the majority (77%) of participants had said that they had not purchased Ristorante pizza prior to purchasing the promotional pack; therefore, they did not believe the sample had been unduly influenced by Ristorante buyers.
Finally, Dr Oetker wished to emphasise that they had no intention to mislead consumers and had undertaken an extensive due diligence process prior to advertising. They had sought advice from the Institute of Promotional Marketing (IPM) on many aspects of the promotion such as whether the headline claim accurately reflected the survey data and the inclusion of information about how the survey was conducted on the website.
The IPM confirmed they had agreed that the claim “Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree” accurately reflected the survey data and the questions asked in the survey after being advised by the CAP Copy Advice team. However, CAP Copy Advice had not been provided with full details of the survey methodology, and therefore the advice given by the IPM had not been provided on the survey methodology itself.
The ASA considered consumers would infer from the claim “Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree” that 90% of people in a group, who were representative of the general public and who were in a position to compare Ristorante pizza with its competitor products, had agreed that Ristorante pizza had the best taste.
We noted that Dr Oetker had based their claim on a self-report survey in which participants were asked to respond to the statement “Ristorante has the best pizzeria taste of any pizza I have purchased to cook at home”. After completing the survey, participants were rewarded with a free Ristorante pizza. We acknowledged that it was made clear to participants prior to taking the survey that they would receive a free pizza regardless of whether or not they agreed with the statement, and we were therefore satisfied that the offer was unlikely to have influenced the way participants responded to the question. However, to participate in the survey, participants had to have first purchased a special Ristorante pizza promotional pack. We acknowledged that only 23% of participants had previously purchased Ristorante pizza before, but that nevertheless meant that the sample included a disproportionate number of participants who had previously purchased the advertiser’s pizza (including those motivated by the offer of receiving another free pizza) compared to a random or representative sample. We were therefore concerned that the survey’s participants were likely to have viewed the advertiser’s pizza more favourably than a random or representative sample of the general public.
While participants were asked to respond to the statement “Ristorante has the best pizzeria taste of any pizza I have purchased to cook at home”, the survey did not present participants with a list of all other established home-cooked pizzas for them to select from. Furthermore, it did not ask participants which other pizzas they had tasted and when they had last tasted them. It did not therefore include a mechanism to filter out those participants who had never tasted, or who had not recently tasted, the comparator products, and who would accordingly not have been in a position to form a judgement on whether Ristorante pizza was the “Best Pizzeria Taste at home”.
Because the claim “Best Pizzeria Taste at home. 9 out of 10 agree” suggested that 90% of a group that was representative of the general public and who were in a position to compare Ristorante pizza with its competitor products agreed that Ristorante had the best taste, we concluded that the claim was likely to mislead.
While we appreciated that ad (a) had detailed how the survey had been conducted, we considered that all of our concerns with the sample and methodology were not readily apparent from viewing ad (a) and were unlikely to have been identified by consumers. We therefore concluded that both ads were misleading.
The ads breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are 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), 3.9 3.9 Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify. (Qualification) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with identifiable competitors).
The ads must not appear again in their current form. We told Dr Oetker (UK) Ltd not to imply that 90% of a group that was representative of the general public and who were in a position to compare Ristorante pizza with competitor products had agreed that Ristorante had the best taste, if that was not the case.