Summary of Council decision:
Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.
A website, www.idealhomeshow.co.uk, promoting an event for companies to attend as exhibitors featured text that stated, “Interested in Exhibiting? Britain’s iconic and best loved consumer event continues to be the leading home show brand in the UK and delivers an unparalleled audience of over 200,000 (ABC audited) potential buyers! …”.
The complainant challenged whether the comparative claim:
1. the leading home show brand in the UK and delivers an unparalleled audience of over 200,000 (ABC audited) potential buyers!” was misleading and could be substantiated; and
2. was verifiable.
Media 10 Ltd believed that their Ideal Home Show was the UK’s leading home show brand and was the longest running home show in the UK; it was launched in 1908. It ran for 17 days, with over one million visitors having attended over the last six years, which they believed exceeded any of their competitors’ shows. Furthermore, in its lifetime the show had attracted over 60 million consumers.
Media 10 quoted their ABC audited attendance figures from the past six years along with the ABC “Attendance Certificates” for verification: 2012 – 247,105; 2013 – 250,655; 2014 – 245,326; 2015 – 225,573; 2016 – 177,458; and 2017 – 204,366 (audit pending).
The ASA considered that consumers would interpret the claim “the leading home show brand in the UK and delivers an unparalleled audience of over 200,000 (ABC audited) potential buyers!” to mean that the show continuously had the highest attendance rate of consumers compared to competing events. Furthermore, consumers would understand that recent shows had individually attracted over 200,000 consumers, and that this data had all been audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC).
We referred to the ABC “Attendance Certificates” and understood that Media 10 had quoted the “Total Attendance” rate for each year, rather than the “Visitor Attendance” figures. The certificates showed that the former included staff and exhibitors whereas the latter, based on our understanding, specifically related to the number of consumers who had attended the event, which we considered needed to support the claim that each year Media 10’s exhibition attracted an audience of over 200,000 consumers. Regarding the attendance certificate for 2016, we noted that the data was not audited by ABC, but by a trade body for the industry Media 10 operated within and that that should have been addressed in the ad. We also noted that Media 10 had quoted the total attendance rate recorded on the 2016 certificate, which included exhibitors and “Revisits”, rather than then just the total number of consumers, excluding those who revisited the event.
We understood that Media 10 were unable to provide their attendance certificate for 2017, since the data was currently being audited. We referred to the ABC attendance certificates and noted that from 2012 to 2014, between 216,151 and 226,911 consumers attended the yearly exhibition, which showed that they consistently had over 200,000 consumers attending the yearly event. However, in 2015, the ABC certificate showed that 195,652 consumers had attended the event and that the 2016 certificate showed that 166,632 consumers had visited the event. This demonstrated that the attendance figures from the past two years had decreased, falling to below 200,000.
We noted that Media 10 had not provided any documentary evidence, such as data comparing their visitor numbers with their competitors over a sufficient period of time to support the comparative claim that they were “the leading home show brand in the UK”.
Because of that, we considered that Media 10 had not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim “the leading home show brand in the UK and delivers an unparalleled audience of over 200,000 (ABC audited) potential buyers!” and therefore concluded it was misleading.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading Advertising), 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation) and 3.33 3.33 Marketing communications that include a comparison with an identifiable competitor must not mislead, or be likely to mislead, the consumer about either the advertised product or the competing product. (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors).
We considered that the claim would be understood as a comparison between Media 10’s home exhibition and other similar shows organised by identifiable competitors. The CAP Code required that comparisons with identifiable competitors must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of the product. Therefore, because the basis of the comparison had not been verified we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
On this point the ad breached CAP Code rule 3.35 3.35 They must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. (Comparisons with Identifiable Competitors).
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Media 10 Ltd not to make leading claims in their future advertising unless they possessed robust documentary evidence and that such comparisons were verifiable. Furthermore, they must ensure that consumer attendance claims quoted in their future advertising are supported with adequate evidence.