A radio ad for Find Your PPI, heard on 29 March 2019, featured TV and radio presenter Sue Cook, who stated, "I'm Sue Cook and my life has been spent reporting news I believe is in the consumer's interest. There's a company claiming to offer a free service that reveals whether you've paid PPI. They're called Find Your PPI. So I've come to their offices to check them out and it's true – they can trace your PPI even if it was hidden. The service is free and after that it's up to you who handles any claims. They're now writing to people in the South West or you can go to findyourppi.com. That's it from me, Sue Cook. Back to the studio".
The complainant challenged whether the ad was obviously distinguishable from editorial content.
Lynden Ltd t/a Find Your PPI said that, to their knowledge, Sue Cook was no longer employed by the BBC and neither was she employed by The Breeze radio station, on which the ad was heard. The Breeze was a commercial music station and it did not have a big editorial presence. The ad was a thirty-second slot that could only have been heard during a clearly distinguishable ad break, and would have been sandwiched between other ads – this was a condition of broadcast set by Radiocentre. The ad would not have been presented or referred to by the radio DJ/presenter and would have had no relevance to actual news or other programmes on the radio show. Find Your PPI said that if a listener was confused as to whether the ad was editorial content, this was perhaps more of a statement on Sue Cook’s profile after many years with the BBC than any misleading aspect of the broadcast. The fact that Sue Cook referred listeners to findyourppi.com should have dispelled any notion that the content was editorial, once the listener visited the website. Find Your PPI said that their main marketing channel was direct mail. The ad in question was the first time they had used the radio to advertise. It was specifically localised to support a simultaneous mail drop, referenced in the ad.
Radiocentre said that care was taken to make sure that the ad would be obviously distinguishable from station content. Stations were advised to schedule the ad away from being first or last in an ad break – this removed the risk that the ad would be heard in any context other than after an ad and before another ad. That meant that the line “Back to the studio” would only be heard before another ad, rather than any content that could be interpreted as actually going back to the radio station studio. Radiocentre said that The Breeze did not broadcast any in-depth or investigative news content and so the ad was not reminiscent of any editorial that would be heard on the station. The content, audio style and messaging tone of the ad was entirely incongruous with the surrounding station content and did not feature any kind of radio station news music bed.
The ASA considered that the initial tone of the ad was factual, introducing the presenter and referring to reporting news that was in the consumer’s interest. It featured the background noise of an office. We considered that the style was similar to that of features on some magazine programmes. The ad featured Sue Cook, who would be known to many listeners as the former presenter of a number of shows on the BBC. Her delivery was reminiscent of that which might be used in a factual news programme, and the phrase “That’s it from me … back to the studio” would also be associated with news reporting.
However, the ad quickly moved on to talk about the Find Your PPI service, which was likely to indicate to listeners that it was an ad. Furthermore, the ad had been cleared with the conditions that it was not broadcast first or last in an ad break, and that it didn’t match the style of news reporting used on the station on which it was broadcast. We therefore understood that the ad would only have been heard in the middle of an ad break, between two other ads, and would not have been heard adjacent to any editorial content. We further noted that the radio station on which the ad was heard mainly played music, with some chat and brief news bulletins, and did not feature investigative journalism or any other form of factual programming.
We acknowledged that the ad might initially be interpreted as editorial by some listeners if heard in isolation. However, that did not realistically reflect how listeners would hear the ad, which would be in the wider context of radio programming. Taking into account the conditions for broadcast put in place by Radiocentre, we considered that listeners would quickly recognise the message as an ad and that the ad was therefore obviously distinguishable from editorial content and did not breach the Code.
The ad was investigated under BCAP Code rule 2.1 2.1 Advertisements must be obviously distinguishable from editorial content, especially if they use a situation, performance or style reminiscent of editorial content, to prevent the audience being confused between the two. The audience should quickly recognise the message as an advertisement. (Recognition of advertising), but was not found in breach.
No further action required.