A TV ad for Geox SpA, a shoe retailer, seen on the Disney Junior Plus channel on 11 August 2017, featured a voice-over stating, “With the purchase of a pair of Geox, you’ll get Geox XLight”. Children were shown holding four miniature Geox shoes on keyrings which contained lights (XLights), followed by two of the devices being used to project light images of characters onto the ground. On-screen text stated “Promotion valid from 17/07/2017 to 24/09/2017 and limited to the Fall-Winter 2017 collection, at participating shops (N† 58,875 XLIGHT). Rules on geox.com, subject to availability”.
The complainant, who understood that the free XLight was only available in seven participating shops in London, challenged whether the claim “With the purchase of a pair of Geox, you’ll get a Geox XLight” misleadingly implied the promotional item was more widely available than was the case.
Geox SpA said over 58,000 XLights were made widely available in the UK during the promotion and they were not limited to the seven shops in London. Geox said 3,990 XLights were distributed to the seven directly operated Geox stores in London, which were listed on the Geox website, www.geox.com. They stated 54,050 XLights were distributed to department stores and/or multibrand stores selling Geox’s products and operated by independent retailers. The remaining XLights were made available to customers purchasing shoes on the geox.com website.
Geox stated they distributed XLights to 83% of independent retailers that sold junior Geox shoes in the UK and were participating in the promotion. They stated of the non-participating stores, 42% were located in the same city or town as other participating stores, and most of the remaining 58% were less than 20 miles from the closest participating store. They also said the non-participating shops represented 7% of sales of junior shoes in the UK. Geox provided evidence of the total number of stores that sold junior Geox shoes in the UK, indicating which stores participated in the promotion.
Geox said they provided free-of-charge promotional materials to be displayed in participating shops so customers could identify in which shops the XLights were available. They said consumers could also check where the XLights were available by getting in contact with their customer service via email or a free telephone number, as indicated on the Geox website.
Geox provided a copy of their rules for the XLight promotion, which stated “58,875” XLights would be available in the UK, and the promotion would be available “in all Geox single-brand stores in the United Kingdom, the list of which is available on the website www.geox.com” and “discretionally, in independent Geox retailer stores (department stores and multi-brand retailers) displaying the promotional material. The promotion will also apply to online purchases at geox.com”.
Geox stated for future promotional offers additional information relating to the location of participating stores would be made available on their website and via their customer service centre.
Clearcast said they sought and were satisfied with the advertiser’s confirmation that the promotion was available in ‘all Geox single-brand stores in the United Kingdom’ as well as their confirmation that it would be available “discretionally, in independent Geox retailer stores (department stores and multi-brand retailers) displaying the promotional material”, as stated in their promotion regulations. Clearcast said they understood that to mean that Geox’s own stores would stock the promotion across all branches and that non-Geox owned retailers would indicate if the promotion was available in their stores. They highlighted the ad contained the disclaimer ‘at participating shops’ and Geox indicated on their website which shops were included. Furthermore, they said they sought and received the confirmation from Geox that they would carry enough stock of the items to meet anticipated demand for the campaign and would remove the ads from circulation immediately if the items became unavailable.
The ASA considered that viewers would understand the qualification “at participating shops (N† 58,875 XLIGHT). Rules on geox.com, subject to availability” to mean that the free XLight might not be available in all shops selling Geox shoes. However, they would not be aware of which independent retailers were participating.
We acknowledged that the XLights were available in 83% of independent retailers in the UK selling children’s Geox shoes, in all seven single brand Geox shops in London and with online purchases. However, we understood that information about which independent stores were participating in the promotion was not made readily available to consumers on www.geox.com, beyond the list of the seven participating Geox shops in London. We considered that consumers visiting the website were likely to interpret this list to mean that only the seven shops in London were participating. In order to find out if a particular independent shop was participating, consumers would be required to visit that shop, or contact Geox’s customer services. The complainant had visited one of the non-participating shops in this case. Furthermore, in some areas of the UK there were considerable distances between the shops that sold children’s Geox shoes.
We considered the geographical limitation with regard to which independent shops were participating in the promotion was material information. We acknowledged that Geox would not have been able to provide viewers with that information within the TV ad itself, but we considered that it should have provided viewers with the means to find that information, for example by including a website address where that information could be found. Because that was not the case, we therefore concluded that the ad was likely to mislead.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
In setting or revising any such standards, Ofcom must have regard, in particular and to such extent as appears to them to be relevant to the securing of the standards objectives, to each of these matters:
a) the degree of harm or offence likely to be caused by the inclusion of any particular sort of material in programmes generally, or in programmes of a particular description;
b) the likely size and composition of a potential audience for programmes included in television and radio services generally, or in television and radio services of a particular description;
c) the likely expectation of the audience as to the nature of a programme's content and the extent to which the nature of the programme's content can be brought to the attention of potential members of the audience;
d) the likelihood of persons who are unaware of the nature of the programme's content being unintentionally exposed, by their own actions, to that content;
e) the desirability of securing that the content of services identifies when there is a change affecting the nature of a service that is being watched or listened to and, in particular, a change that is relevant to the application of the standards set under this section...".
(Misleading advertising), 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 3.29.3 3.29.3 advertisements must not mislead consumers by omitting restrictions on the availability of products; for example, geographical restrictions or age limits. (Availability).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Geox SpA to ensure in future that ads did not mislead by omitting material information such as exclusions relating to participating shops, and that, where there was limited time or space to communicate significant information, this information was made available by other means and that marketing communications clearly directed consumers to such information.