A brochure, by the Israeli Government Tourist Office, titled “YOUR NEXT VACATION: ISRAEL”:
a. The brochure, which was distributed at an exhibition event for Christians between 19 and 22 May 2015, included a map on the second page, titled “ISRAEL”. The map included a key explaining the use of shades of brown and green to show elevation. A further key, headed “ISRAEL-PALESTINIAN INTERIM AGREEMENT” explained the use of light pink to mark areas of “Palestinian responsibility for civil affairs, internal security and public order” and yellow to mark areas of “Palestinian responsibility for civil affairs, public order of Palestinians. Israeli responsibility for security of Israelis”. The Gaza Strip was marked in light pink. The Golan Heights was labelled “GOLAN” and marked in colours showing the elevation. Areas of the West Bank were marked variously in colours to show the elevation, or in light pink or yellow. The northern and southern parts of the West Bank were labelled “SAMARIA” and “JUDEAN DESERT” respectively.
b. The same brochure was available for download from a web page titled “Online Literature”, on the website www.thinkisrael.com/Tourism_Euk/Pages/default.aspx, on 11 August 2015.
The complainant challenged whether the ads misleadingly implied that the West Bank and Golan Heights were internationally recognised as part of Israel.
The Israeli Government Tourist Office (IGTO) said that ad (a) was distributed at an exhibition event for Christians, and it was therefore aimed at Christians who might be interested in visiting Israel or going on a pilgrimage to biblical sites. With regard to ad (b), IGTO said that a large proportion of the brochures and other marketing materials they distributed at events were made available on the website so that they were easily accessible to all tourists regardless of religion. They said the brochure provided general and practical information about Israel from a Christian perspective. This allowed Christians to connect with Israel by using place names also used in the Bible. They thought that both the Christian tourists targeted by ad (a), and the tourists of all faiths targeted by ad (b), would be likely to be aware that the status of the territories in question was the subject of international dispute.
IGTO said the key relating to the areas marking the different responsibilities between Palestinian and Israeli authorities (the Key) made clear the distinction between those responsibilities, which they considered was more than sufficient in the context of a tourism ad. They said the reason for incorporating the Key was to assist potential tourists and indicate that there were areas in Israel which were the subject of future negotiations. They considered it was unreasonable to expect a tourist brochure to go into further detail; it would be unduly onerous and inappropriate for tourism ads to include political statements when referring to places of international dispute, unless they had a practical impact on the plans of a tourist intending to visit those places. Those places were indicated on the map through the use of the Key, which provided such practical information in the form of the text “persons intending to enter areas defined in the above mentioned agreement are advised to consult an appropriate authority”.
IGTO said the names “Judea” and “Samaria” were the commonly used archaic names of the regions which were used in the time of Jesus and frequently used in the New Testament. The map also noted other areas of significance to Christians including Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jericho, and the Golan Heights, which contained many important historical sites for Christians. IGTO considered the target audience of ad (a) would find those labels helpful in understanding the location of areas mentioned in the Bible, in providing practical information as to how to visit those places (for example the Golan Heights could only be visited by entry through Israel), and in allowing them to relate to the locations and be encouraged to visit them. They considered the use of the names was not misleading, as the Key clearly indicated which areas were under Palestinian and/or Israeli control.
IGTO considered the ad was non-partisan and showed a fair and balanced view of the historical, religious and cultural activities available in Israel and surrounding areas that tourists – regardless of religion – might find important to visit.
The ASA noted the brochure titled “Your next vacation: Israel” was generally aimed at encouraging people to visit the destinations and attractions it highlighted. The map appeared on the second page of the brochure, which went on to provide general information about the attraction of Israel for tourists, more specific information about a range of locations and practical information about travel in Israel. We understood that the status of some of the territories featured in the map and described elsewhere in the brochure was the subject of much international dispute.
Ad (a) was distributed at a Christian exhibition event where most visitors would be committed Christians who were likely to have an interest in the area often referred to as the Holy Land, due to its significance to their religion, and, as such, we considered the average consumer of ad (a) (i.e. those who had obtained the brochure at the Christian exhibition event) was likely to be aware that the status of some of the territories in question was the subject of much international dispute and that that could have implications on travel and security procedures in those areas. We further considered that the average consumer to whom ad (a) was targeted was particularly likely to be interested in visiting sites of interest to Christians, some of which were located in the disputed territories of the West Bank and Golan Heights.
Ad (b) was on a website targeted at UK consumers, on a web page where a range of brochures were available for download. The brochure was the first on the web page, in a section titled “General Literature”. The following section was titled “Christian Literature” and included brochures specifically relating to biblical sites and sites relating to the Virgin Mary. In that context we considered that because ad (b) appeared in the “General Literature” section it was targeted more generally at consumers, of all faiths or none, who were interested in visiting Israel as a tourist. We considered that the average consumer who sought out information on IGTO’s website about visiting Israel as a tourist, and who under the Code was assumed to be reasonably well-informed, observant and circumspect, was likely to be aware that the status of some of the territories in question was the subject of much international dispute, and that that could have implications on travel and security procedures in those areas.
We noted that, through the Key, the map identified areas in the West Bank (and Gaza Strip) which were under Palestinian or shared Israeli and Palestinian responsibility, which we considered highlighted that those areas were the subject of international dispute. However, we understood the areas indicated did not encompass the entirety of the West Bank, which along with Gaza Strip formed the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The Golan Heights, the borders and status of which were disputed between Israel and Syria, was also not similarly highlighted. There were no border delineations marking the West Bank and the Golan Heights, and the font used to name the areas of Golan, Samaria and the Judean Desert was the same used to indicate regions of Israel. Nonetheless, we considered the average consumer of both ads would be generally aware that the Golan Heights, as well as the West Bank and Gaza Strip, were the subject of international dispute. We understood the place names Judean Desert and Samaria were not currently legally recognised, but acknowledged that those historical names for the areas would be familiar to Christians – and some non-Christians – and would help to identify areas where there would be biblical sites of interest to both Christian and non-Christian tourists.
The Code defined a transactional decision as “… any decision taken by a consumer, whether it is to act or not act, about whether, how and on what terms to buy, pay in whole or in part for, retain or dispose of a product or whether, how and on what terms to exercise a contractual right in relation to a product”. Notwithstanding the particular presentation of the Golan Heights and West Bank on the map, we understood that sites and attractions in the Golan Heights and West Bank could only be visited by UK tourists via Israel or territory controlled by Israel. We therefore considered that those consumers at whom ads (a) and (b) were targeted, who were likely to be aware of the status of the disputed territories and who were interested in visiting those areas, were unlikely to be misled into taking a transactional decision that they otherwise would not have taken in relation to visiting Israel or sites in the West Bank and Golan Heights. We considered that those consumers for whom the disputed status of the territories was a significant issue that would affect their decision to visit were also likely to be aware of the dispute and were therefore also unlikely to be misled into taking a transactional decision they otherwise would not have taken.
We therefore concluded the ads did not breach the Code.
We investigated ad (a) and ad (b) under CAP Code (Edition 12) rules
Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.
Marketing communications must not mislead the consumer 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 the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product. Whether the omission or presentation of material information is likely to mislead the consumer depends on the context, the medium and, if the medium of the marketing communication is constrained by time or space, the measures that the marketer takes to make that information available to the consumer by other means. (Misleading advertising), but did not find them in breach.
No further action necessary.