Ad description

A TV ad for Sainsbury’s credit cards, seen on Channel 4 on 22 June 2016 at 21:15, featured a couple talking about renovating their house and how a credit card had helped with this. They said “Being our first renovation, we kind of went in head-first really. I just started knocking things down, didn't I? Yeah, you got a bit over-excited. We definitely bit off more than we could chew. Washing up in the bath, we cook on a camp stove and we sleep in a campervan. Getting a credit card, we've been able to pay along our terms and use the flexibility that that gives us. If we can get through that, we can get through anything”. As they spoke, the shots of the couple sitting on a sofa were interspersed with brief clips that illustrated what they were saying. These included cartoon bulls stampeding, a building being demolished, a dog chewing a large bone, a man putting up a tent, a slinky toy coming down some stairs, and two people being shot out of a cannon. On-screen text stated “Terms and Conditions apply. Credit subject to status. UK residents aged 18 or over. From Sainsbury’s Bank plc. Representative 18.9% APR variable”. At the end of the ad, the Sainsbury’s logo appeared on screen and a voice-over stated “It’s never just money, it's freedom. Credit cards from Sainsbury’s Bank”.


The complainant challenged whether the ad was irresponsible because it implied that the best way to finance property renovation was by getting a credit card.


Sainsbury’s Bank plc stated that the ad campaign was intended to feature real customers talking about their experiences using Sainsbury’s Bank products. The couple featured in the ad were recruited via word of mouth. They were asked to share their experience of using the credit card in an unscripted way, and the resulting footage was then edited down to fit the ad slot.

The couple described how they had used their credit card to manage their finances at the time of undertaking renovations on their home. They stated that the card had given them additional financial flexibility, but they did not suggest that they had used it to fund the entire renovation. They said that the wording “Getting a credit card, we've been able to pay along our terms and use the flexibility that that gives us” expressed the fact that the option of getting a credit card had been thought through by the couple and considered suited to their particular financial circumstances.

The card advertised gave customers 27 months’ interest free credit on purchases up to a maximum credit limit that Sainsbury’s believed was suitable for funding parts of a home renovation in an affordable, responsible way.

They stated that the on-screen text appeared as soon as the couple began discussing the credit card. As a responsible lender, they felt that it was appropriate to include this information in order to make the consequences of using the credit card clearer to customers, even though it was not required in order for the ad to comply with the relevant regulations.

Sainsbury’s were confident that the advertised credit card offered an affordable alternative for customers looking to pay for items over a prolonged period. They said that feedback from customers supported this, and the bank managed resulting lending in a responsible way. Therefore, they did not believe that the ad was irresponsible.

Clearcast said that they approved the ad as it featured a testimonial from one couple on how they had paid for renovations on their house and how the credit card had allowed them a certain amount of financial flexibility. The ad did not state that the couple had funded all of the work using their credit card. Clearcast said that they appreciated that this option would not be for everyone and they did not believe the ad implied that using a credit card was the best way to fund a renovation. As such, they did not believe that the ad was irresponsible.



The ASA noted that the couple discussed their experience of renovating a house for the first time and the challenges they faced in the process, some of which were unexpected. We considered that the renovation referred to in the ad was likely to be understood as a project to improve or expand the couple's property, rather than to carry out essential maintenance. They stated that getting a credit card had allowed them to make payments more flexibly, but did not state which specific costs they had paid for using the card. We accepted that they did not suggest that the entire renovation had been paid for by credit card. Given the references to the disruption that had resulted from the renovation (such as washing up in the bath, cooking on a camp stove and sleeping in a campervan), we considered that viewers would be likely to understand that the couple had used the card to pay for unforeseen expenses that had arisen during the course of the renovation.

We noted that comments such as “We kind of went in head-first really”, “You got a bit over-excited”, “I just started knocking things down” and “We definitely bit off more than we could chew” implied that the couple had not fully considered or been prepared for the consequences of renovating their home and the resulting impact on their lives. Furthermore, the language used suggested that additional costs had been incurred because of ill-considered or reckless decisions and lack of planning. While the statement “If we can get through that, we can get through anything” alluded to the fact that the couple had faced difficulties, we noted that overall, the ad had a light-hearted tone (emphasised by the video clips). We acknowledged Sainsbury’s comments that the wording had been designed to demonstrate that the decision had been thought through, but considered that the overall impression given by the ad was that the credit card had offered an easy solution to financial problems that the couple had encountered during the renovations.

The ad concluded with the phrase “It’s never just money, it’s freedom. Credit cards from Sainsbury’s Bank”. We understood that “freedom” referred to the flexibility offered by the card. However, we also considered that it reinforced the impression created by the ad that the card could be used to fix problems that arose during a non-essential project, and the ad’s relative lack of emphasis on the potential risks of using credit to resolve such problems. For those reasons we concluded that the ad trivialised the process of taking out credit and was therefore irresponsible.

The ad 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).


The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Sainsbury’s Bank to ensure that their advertising did not present consumer credit products in a socially irresponsible way.



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