A TV ad for Lloyds Bank, seen on 10 February 2018. The ad showed a black horse galloping through the countryside, past a memorial service, a suburban neighbourhood where a mother was caring for her baby and on a beach with children running behind it. During the ad a female voice said, “Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have been and always will be by your side.” At the end of the ad text stated “By your side for over 250 years.” Music in the background included the lyrics “We’ve come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good.”
Keystone Law, who represented victims of financial fraud committed at a corporate branch of HBOS, prior to their acquisition by Lloyds, and objected to the actions Lloyds Bank had taken to address it, challenged whether the ad was misleading.
Lloyds Banking Group plc t/a Lloyds Bank said that the “By your side” claim had been used in their ads since 2015. They said “By your side” was an encapsulation of the services they provided and that both the voice-over and on-screen text supported that sentiment.
Lloyds Bank said the claim “By your side” was meant as a summation of the reliability, accessibility and security provided to customers. They believed that the only claim that required objective substantiation was the longevity of the business, for which they provided evidence by means of the original ledger showing the start date of Lloyds Bank in 1765.
Lloyds Bank said the ad had not promoted a specific product or service and therefore could be neither misleading nor have omitted information that consumers may have needed to make a decision. They said that there was no call to action for the consumer, no direction to call a phone number or visit a website so the ad could not be, by that definition, misleading.
Lloyds Bank said that, in any case, the ad could be substantiated based on the size of their banking network, the variety of services they offered, their customer base, its volunteering efforts, the average number of customer interactions per customer per month, and other initiatives they had launched.
Lloyds Bank said that in January 2017, two former HBOS employees had been convicted for criminal actions alongside four other individuals in relation to criminal misconduct at the HBOS Impaired Assets London and South office based in Reading. They said the convictions related to criminal conduct prior to the acquisition of HBOS by Lloyds Banking Group (LBG) in 2009. They said that, following the convictions, LBG launched a customer review, overseen by an Independent Reviewer to determine what compensation was due to the victims of that fraud. They said there were approximately 70 companies/businesses which Lloyds Bank believed were impacted by the fraud; the proportion of companies/businesses impacted by the crimes was equivalent to less than 0.001% of their 1.1 million business customer base.
Lloyds Bank said they had made progress settling with affected companies/businesses and, that of those within the review, more than 90% had received compensation, of which 85% accepted. They said that throughout their review they covered the reasonable fees for lawyers or other advisers for customers so they had access to appropriate advice.
Lloyds Bank said the complaint was in respect of whether a retail consumer ad was misleading. They said the ad had been designed, created and used for a Lloyds retail bank consumer audience.
Clearcast said they were not made aware of the HBOS Reading case prior to approval of the ad but that they understood some employees at a corporate branch of HBOS (now owned by Lloyds Bank) had been found guilty of fraud. They said they did not agree that the matters arising from the fraud case should be conflated with the strap line “By your side”.
Clearcast said that when assessing the claim “By your side for more than 250 years”, they asked for substantiation of the 250 year claim and a rationale for the use of “By your side”. They said they were satisfied that viewers would infer the message was related to reliable, accessible and secure banking. They said they understood that since the individuals responsible for the crimes were prosecuted, Lloyds Bank had implemented measures to ensure appropriate action had been taken, which for Clearcast had reinforced the ad’s claim.
The ASA understood that in 2017 six people, including two former HBOS bankers, were found guilty of bribery and fraud against business customers and shareholders from 2002 to 2007. The complainant believed the claim “By your side” in the ad was misleading because they believed Lloyds, who took over HBOS in 2009, had not supported or been “by the side” of their clients and other victims of the HBOS fraud.
The female voice-over stated, “Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have been and always will be by your side”, while on-screen text stated, “By your side for over 250 years”. The ad did not reference the HBOS fraud case or steps it had taken regarding compensating victims of fraud in general.
We considered viewers would understand the ad to be a general brand promotion, and would understand the claim “By your side” to be advertising puffery, not a claim that would be taken literally, or be seen as requiring objective substantiation. We did not consider that viewers would interpret the claim “By your side” to be a commentary on the situation of the victims of the HBOS fraud case, or to think that it was directly connected to their engagement with Lloyds bank in 2018. Further, in the context of a general brand promotional ad with no references to fraud, we did not consider the details of the HBOS fraud case to be material information that needed to be included in the ad to prevent consumers from being misled. For those reasons, we concluded the ad was unlikely to mislead.
We investigated under BCAP Code rules 3.1, 3.2 and 3.4 (Misleading advertising), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.