Summary of Council decision:
1 issue investigated and Upheld
A TV ad for Transformers Rescue Bots toys, seen on 5 February 2018, featured children playing with a variety of toys. At the end of the ad, five individual figures and two playsets were shown on screen and a voice-over stated, "Rescue Bots figures and playsets. Out now".
The complainant, who had been unable to find some of the products featured in stock in the UK, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Hasbro (UK) Ltd said that the toys depicted in the ad were widely available for purchase by consumers in the UK. They said that the products had been shipped to the majority of Hasbro retail customers in the UK including Argos, Asda, Debenhams, Hamleys, Sainsburys, Smyths, Tesco and The Entertainer. The product was supplied in waves with a minimum of four characters in each wave. Two waves had been shipped that year, so they expected there to be a minimum of eight characters on shelf, plus any carry forward stock from the previous year. Hasbro said the figures were sold as an assortment, so many retailers did not stock the entire range online and instead preferred to display and offer for sale the assortment figures only in their brick and mortar stores. Most of the retailers stocked the product as single facing, so consumers would need to look through the row of products to check which of the assortment’s characters were available in a particular store. They provided photos of the range of figures on display in several stores as well as links to where the different toys were available to purchase on Amazon and ebay. They also provided data on the number and selection of figures that had been shipped to UK retailers since January 2017.
Clearcast said they had received confirmation that the products were available.
The ASA noted that the ad was for toys, which were primarily of interest to children, and that it had appeared on a channel aimed at young children. The BCAP Code stated that advertisements for products or services of interest to children must not be likely to mislead; for example, by exaggerating the features of a product or service in a way that could lead to children having unrealistic expectations of the product or service. The Code also stated that advertisers must make a reasonable estimate of demand.
The ad featured children playing with a variety of toys. In the final shot, five individual Transformers figures and two playsets including multiple figures were shown on screen. We considered that viewers of the ad, and in particular children, at whom the products were aimed, would understand that all the toys depicted in the ad were widely available to purchase. While we acknowledged that they would likely be aware that there was a wider range of characters available, we considered that they would expect the toys specifically featured in the ad to be widely available. We therefore expected Hasbro to provide evidence that this was the case.
The complainant had only been able to find two of the figures for sale online by major retailers. The rest could only be purchased through smaller sellers on third-party sites, often at higher prices. We did not consider that this was sufficient to meet consumer understanding of the toys being widely available. We therefore examined whether all the toys were widely available to purchase at bricks and mortar stores.
We acknowledged that the way the toys were displayed and distributed would be up to the individual retailers or stores. However, we expected to see evidence that all of the figures featured in the ad had been supplied to a range of UK retailers in reasonable quantities. We noted that an assortment featuring up to 17 different figures had been shipped to different stores. The data provided by Hasbro indicated that a large number of Transformers figures had been provided to a variety of major UK toy retailers. It showed that the toys had been provided in six waves of shipments, each of which contained a different combination of figures. Since January 2017, each figure in the ad had been included in one out of the six shipments. We noted that a large number of the other Transformers figures (which were not featured in the ad) were included in at least two of the waves of shipments. Regardless of the overall numbers of each figure provided, and their distribution, we noted that each of the figures in the ad had only been shipped to UK retailers on one occasion since January 2017. We considered that the evidence provided was not enough to demonstrate that all of the products featured were widely available to purchase.
We considered that we had not seen sufficient evidence that Hasbro had made a reasonable estimate of demand for all the specific products shown in the ad. As a result, we considered that the ad would lead to children having unrealistic expectations of the range of products that were widely available. We concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the Code.
The ad breached BCAP Code rules
The standards objectives, insofar as they relate to advertising, include:
a) that persons under the age of 18 are protected;
b) that material likely to encourage or incite the commission of crime or lead to disorder is not included in television and radio services;
c) that the proper degree of responsibility is exercised with respect to the content of programmes which are religious programmes;
d) that generally accepted standards are applied to the contents of television and radio services so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from inclusion in such services of offensive and harmful material;
e) that the inclusion of advertising which may be misleading, harmful or offensive in television and radio services is prevented;
f) that the international obligations of the United Kingdom with respect to advertising included in television and radio services are complied with [in particular in respect of television those obligations set out in Articles 3b, 3e,10, 14, 15, 19, 20 and 22 of Directive 89/552/EEC (the Audi Visual Media Services Directive)];
g) that there is no use of techniques which exploit the possibility of conveying a message to viewers or listeners, or of otherwise influencing their minds, without their being aware, or fully aware, of what has occurred"
Section 319(2). and 3.2 3.2 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), 3.28 3.28 Broadcasters must be satisfied that advertisers have made a reasonable estimate of demand. (Availability) and 5.7 5.7 Advertisements must not take advantage of children's inexperience, credulity or sense of loyalty. Advertisements for products or services of interest to children must not be likely to mislead; for example, by exaggerating the features of a product or service in a way that could lead to children having unrealistic expectations of that product or service. (Children).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Hasbro (UK) Ltd to ensure that they did not present products of interest to children in a way that was likely to result in unrealistic expectations of their availability.