A TV ad for Game stores, seen in April 2018, featured a man speaking to his son. The man said, "When I was 14, this video game was all I wanted. Money was so tight that Dad had to take a second job just to pay for it. And he was away so much that my Mum took a lover in the South of France. The stress drove Dad to an early grave. But on his deathbed we played this one last time. And now son, it's yours." He handed a video game to his son. The son was then shown in a Game store asking an employee, "Hi, can I trade this please?" The employee said, "Sure." A voice-over stated, "Trade in games, consoles and phones for cash or credit in store or online at Game." On-screen text stated "2x forms of ID may be required. 18+ for online. Paypal account required for online trade-ins".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading, because they understood that customers could only trade in console games depending on their age and that PC games were excluded.
Clearcast said that the advertiser’s intention was for the ad to be a humorous take on why people may wish to trade in unwanted games. They were very clear not to state a particular game or which generation it was. The ad was meant to make light and bring humour to what was basically a boring transactional function. Clearcast said the ad didn’t highlight any known game or console compatible branding, and so was left openly ambiguous to simply demonstrate that at Game, you can trade in. They said that the PC game exclusion was not a known condition at script stage.
Game Retail Ltd confirmed that PC games were excluded from their trade-in offer both online and in store. They stated that they classed games from two console generations ago or more as “retro”, and did not accept those games for trade in.
The ad was intended to promote Game’s trade-in service. The father told a story about the game, describing the hardships he went through to get it and the importance it had in his life. The ASA considered that viewers would understand the contrast between the mundane item shown and the dramatic terms in which it was discussed to be humorous and absurd, and not reflective of reality. Following the story, the son was shown trading in the game. The game was shown in a generic CD case without any recognisable branding or packaging that would identify it as a specific game, type of game or as being from a particular generation of games. We considered that consumers would understand from the ad that they could trade in their unwanted games at Game. We considered that the ad depicted how someone might come into possession of a game they didn’t want in an exaggerated, humorous way. Therefore, consumers were unlikely to regard it as realistic or illustrative of any particular game or type of game that Game would accept for trade in.
That notwithstanding, we noted that Game did not accept PC games for trade in, either in store or online, and neither did they accept games which were two console generations old or older. We considered that the fact there were restrictions on the types of products that Game would accept for trade in was material information that needed to be conveyed to consumers in the ad. Because the ad did not make the existence of such limitations clear to consumers, we concluded that it was misleading.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Obvious exaggerations ("puffery") and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead.
(Misleading advertising) and
Qualifications must be presented clearly.
CAP has published a Help Note on Claims that Require Qualification. (Qualification).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Game Retail Ltd to ensure they made significant conditions and limitations clear in their advertising, including the exclusion of certain types of products from the trade-in offer.