Following the Clearcast clearance of the ad and the launch of the investigation into complaints, media reports stated that PDB had taken the decision not to use Kerry Katona for celebrity endorsement in their ads for the Cash Lady brand because she had recently filed for bankruptcy. The ASA noted this development did not affect the decision to ‘Uphold’ on both points, a decision which was based purely on the interpretation of the ads at the time at which they were cleared and then broadcast.
Two TV ads for a payday loan:
a. the ad featured TV personality Kerry Katona, who was shown standing next to a laptop which was logged onto the Cash Lady website. She said, "If you need extra cash check out www.cashlady.co.uk and apply for a loan up to £300. That’s cashlady.co.uk." Large text on the final frame stated "CASH LADY Fast Cash for Fast Lives" and on-screen text stated "T&C's apply. Cash Lady is a non charging broker. 18+. Approval subject to status. Representative APR 2670%. Representative example. £180 borrowed for 28 days. Interest = £52.50. Total payment = £232. Interest rate 378% (variable)".
b. The ad featured TV personality Kerry Katona, who was shown standing next to laptop which was logged onto the Cash Lady website. She said, "If you need extra cash check out www.cashlady.co.uk and apply for a loan up to £300. That’s cashlady.co.uk." On-screen text stated: “Representative 3670% APR. A pay day loan is a fast and short term loan for emergencies. T&C’s subject to approval. Cash Lady is a broker and Trading name of PDB UK Ltd
Three complaints were received:
1. one complainant challenged whether the claim "Fast Cast for Fast Lives" in ad (a) was irresponsible; and
2. three complainants challenged whether the use of Kerry Katona, in ads (a) and (b), to endorse the payday loan product was irresponsible.
1. PDB UK Ltd t/a Cash Lady (Cash Lady) said the line "Fast Cash for Fast Lives" was no longer in use and that more recent versions of the ad did not include it. They strongly rejected any allegation that the ad was not prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and society more generally and said that the ad contained no words or images which suggested that consumers should use any form of credit for unnecessary or frivolous spending and believed that neither of the ads encouraged irresponsible borrowing or suggested that they (Cash Lady) promoted irresponsible lending. They said the strapline "Fast cash for fast lives" was intended to communicate the idea that their services were quick and efficient and consequently fitted in with the busy and demanding lives that people led. They believed there was nothing in the ad which suggested that customers should make the decision to borrow without giving the matter due consideration and did not suggest that it was a light-hearted issue which should not be taken seriously.
Clearcast said that the line "Fast cash for Fast Lives" made no reference to Kerry Katona's (KK's) celebrity status or her previous financial problems and that, without these two elements, the claim would be understood to be a reference to busy working lives and therefore the easy and fast access to cash would be a distinct advantage. They said it was implicit that the loans were needed quickly in order to plug a short-term gap in a budget. They said there was nothing in the phrase to suggest that you did not need to give the matter due consideration and said it simply meant that if you needed a loan in a hurry, you could get one.
2. Cash Lady said that KK was selected to help with the promotion of their brand because she was a person with whom many members of the public could relate. They said that in the past she had been used to promote well-known brands (such as Iceland) as well as writing a column in widely read weekly magazines. They said it followed that she had a high profile with a large section of society and that this was a significant factor in their choice of celebrity to help in the promotion of their service.
They said that ads (a) or (b) made no reference to credit as a way of resolving financial difficulties or financial problems and that no connection was made to any form of financial difficulty – whether explicit, implied or assumed – other than viewers' possible awareness of KK's bankruptcy, which occurred a number of years ago. They said that KK had been declared bankrupt in 2008 and believed the complaints were based on the assumption that it was this event which rendered the ad irresponsible. They believed the ad was not irresponsible and that the complaints were based on an assumed understanding or awareness of the viewer and not on anything in the production of the ad. They also said the complaint assumed that it was not possible for a celebrity to move past a difficult event in their lives and that they would be forever "stained" by that event. They believed this could not be the case and that it would be unfair. Furthermore, they stated that such an argument had the effect of precluding areas of work for individuals such as KK and that this was unduly harsh and unfair, particularly in the context of an ad that made no reference to those events or which did not in any way encourage irresponsible borrowing or which in no way undermined the importance of the decision to borrow.
Clearcast said the fact the KK had (but did not refer to) a financial problem was, if anything, a point of empathy and nothing more. They said that having had financial problems, she appeared to have overcome them by hard work and diligence and that it was hard to see why using her to front any sort of financial ad was irresponsible. They said that the ads made no mention of her previous difficulties and did not make any explicit reference to financial difficulties and merely said "If you need extra cash, check out Cashlady.co.uk and apply for a loan for up to £300". They said this statement was not irresponsible and that it was merely a statement of fact that Cash Lady could help you to get a short-term loan. They said it was hard to see how an acceptable statement could be made irresponsible because it was being made by someone who had experienced financial problems in the past and the consideration about whether an ad was irresponsible should be based on the message put across, not the basis of the person who puts that message across.
The ASA noted that Clearcast had withdrawn clearance of ad (a) following a previous ASA investigation into a similar ad but that the complaint about this particular ad was received before that date. We noted ad (a) included the voice-over which stated, "If you need extra cash, check out cashlady.co.uk, and apply for a loan of up to £300." We considered that, alongside this invitation to obtain "extra cash" through the payday loan service, the on-screen text "Fast Cash for Fast Lives" which appeared on the final frame of the ad, would be understood by viewers to mean that a payday loan was not a financial commitment that required a great deal of consideration and planning. Because the emphasis was on the speed and ease with which a serious financial commitment with very high interest rates could be obtained, we concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
On this point ad (a) breached BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility).
We noted ads (a) and (b) featured KK in which she informed viewers about the availability of the payday loan and stated "If you need extra cash, check out cashlady.co.uk and apply for a loan for up to £300. That’s cashlady.co.uk". Although she made no reference to her own financial history, we understood KK's previous financial problems had been widely publicised and that although her bankruptcy had occurred over four years previously, many viewers would still be aware of this and that for many, she was inextricably linked to that debt.
We considered that all financial products should be advertised with a strong sense of responsibility for consumers and that this was particularly the case with regard to very high interest, short-term loans, which were designed for filling gaps between pay days when finances were running low. We considered that because, for many consumers, KK was synonymous with debt, viewers who empathised with her personal circumstances could be influenced by her endorsement and make a decision about resolving their own financial shortfalls by obtaining a payday loan product that may not be suitable for them and therefore, potentially harmful.
Despite on-screen text in ad (b) stating “A pay day loan is a fast and short term loan for emergencies”, we considered that this did not prevent the endorsement of KK for this financial product from having the potential to unduly influence financial decisions. We therefore concluded that the ad was irresponsible.
On this point ad (a) and (b) breached BCAP Code rule 1.2 1.2 Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society. (Social responsibility).
Ads (a) and (b) should not appear again in their current form. We told Cash Lady to avoid using celebrity endorsements by individuals whose financial problems were well known.