THIS RULING REPLACES THE RULING PUBLISHED ON 17 NOVEMBER 2021. FOLLOWING INDEPENDENT REVIEW MINOR FACTUAL AMENDMENTS HAVE BEEN MADE TO THE RESPONSE AND ASSESSMENT SECTIONS BUT THE DECISION TO UPHOLD THE COMPLAINT REMAINS UNCHANGED.
A radio ad for online shopping provider Very, heard in August 2021, featured a woman who stated, “My Bella is logo mad. I tell you what, she’d rather go to school in her socks than in trainers that aren’t Adidas or Nike. But, I wanted to treat her, so I went to Very and got all the stuff she wanted, and I was able to spread the cost. This was a really big year for Bella, and I want her to smash it …”, followed by a voice-over that stated, “With Very Pay, you have a choice of ways to pay for this very big school moment. Life is this very moment”.
IssueThe complainants, who believed the ad encouraged the use of credit to finance excessive spending on expensive branded goods, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd t/a Very said the scenario in the ad involved a mother purchasing shoes for her daughter’s return to school; a purchase they believed was necessary rather than discretionary spending. They explained that the statement “With Very Pay, you have a choice of ways to pay” in the ad referred to their Very Pay payment platform, which comprised a number of payment options.
Very said that in their view the only direct reference to credit in the advert was when the mother character stated that she “was able to spread the cost”. The mother character in the ad was purchasing items for her daughter’s return to school and, on this particular occasion, was treating her daughter to a pair of Adidas or Nike trainers, which in their view were not expensive designer items. They maintained a large number of the Adidas and Nike shoes on the website were inexpensive or would be considered inexpensive by most consumers. They said Adidas and Nike trainers were the most commonly purchased trainers in the UK and a large selection of both Adidas and Nike children’s trainers were available from very.co.uk at prices that they believed would not be considered expensive. At the time the ad ran the starting prices for both brands’ trainers was £9. There were 24 school-age children’s Adidas trainers available at or below £20, and 72 at or below £25. There were also 41 school-age children’s Nike trainers available at or below £20, and 91 at or below £25.
Radiocentre said that they felt the approach used in the ad was justifiable in this case. They said that the context of the ad was a “slice of life” to which everyone could relate. The purchase was described as a “treat”, denoting exceptional rather than “excessive” spending, for what was an important life event, the return to school. They said there was no suggestion in the ad that this was habitual behaviour or not carefully considered.
The ASA noted that Very Pay featured several different methods of payment. “Pay now”, allowed consumers to pay immediately with a credit or debit card, or PayPal payment. Alternatively, consumers could transact using the “Buy now pay later”, “Monthly”, or “Pay in 3” options, the former two of which were forms of credit. Monthly payments could be made on items purchased on credit, whereas “Buy now pay later” allowed consumers to delay repayment by up to 12 months. We noted that any monthly balance, and any balance remaining after 12 months on the “Buy now pay later” option, would incur interest at 39.9% APR representative.
The ad featured a mother talking about buying branded trainers from Very, stating that her daughter had a strong preference for trainers with logos, and that she would “rather go to school in her socks than in trainers that aren’t Adidas or Nike”. We considered some listeners would understand the comments made by the mother as disparaging the purchase of non-branded trainers or other items for their children to wear at school. We considered that the ad’s references to a “really big year” and the mother’s desire for her daughter to “smash it” further played on the anxieties that parents might feel regarding their child fitting in at school. We considered that the ad put pressure on parents to purchase branded shoes or other expensive designer items, on the basis they could play a significant role in their child’s success at school.
We considered that the beginning of the school year could be expensive for parents, having to pay for school uniforms, shoes and other related items. We also considered that branded shoes, in and of themselves, were not a necessity in the same way that school shoes were more generally. We acknowledged that Very Pay included the option to pay immediately for items purchased through the website. However, we considered that the ad’s claim that by purchasing with Very consumers could “spread the cost” was a clear reference to the credit options available, and we noted that Very’s website described the credit account as being “designed for consumers who wish to purchase goods and services from Very and spread the cost of those purchases”. While some Adidas and Nike children’s shoes were priced at around £9, we considered that affordability was relative, and noted that a number of shoes in those ranges were several times more expensive. We therefore considered the ad’s messaging explicitly connected the use of a form of credit to buying more expensive goods, such as branded goods, and played on the anxieties parents might feel about their children starting or returning to school.
We therefore concluded the ad irresponsibly encouraged the use of credit to finance spending on expensive branded goods, and was in breach of the Code.
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. (Responsible advertising).
The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained of. We told Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd to ensure that their ads did not irresponsibly encourage spending on expensive goods through the use of credit.