A tweet from the account of Ozzy Osbourne (@ozzyosbourne), for PlayStation VR2, seen on 20 February 2023, featured the text “Did this spot with @Playstation team. We had a lot of fun. Their new VR2 is really amazing”. The tweet included a video which began with a blue screen displaying the PlayStation logo. The video cut to Ozzy Osbourne in a living room taking a virtual reality headset and controllers out of a blue PlayStation box as Sharon Osbourne told him that they needed to pack boxes and catch a flight to England. Ozzy replied that he wanted to play on his PlayStation VR2. He was then shown playing the game. The video cut to a blue screen that showed the VR headset and controllers, and large text which included “FEEL A NEW REAL AVAILABLE 02.22.2023 PlayStation VR2” and smaller text that stated “PS5 console required”. Ozzy was shown again in a dark, largely empty room continuing to play the game. The video ended with the on-screen text “PLAY HAS NO LIMITS” displayed on a blue background, followed by the PlayStation logo.
The complainant challenged whether the tweet was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication.
Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd t/a Sony responded on both their own and Ozzy Osbourne’s behalf.
Sony said the video promoted the launch of the PlayStation VR2 and was featured across different media in the UK including TV, video on demand (VOD) and YouTube pre-roll placements. It was not created specifically for inclusion on Ozzy Osbourne’s Twitter account, nor did it mimic or mirror the content styles or formats used by Ozzy Osbourne in his social media content.
Sony confirmed that their agreement with Ozzy Osbourne granted his management company final approval over the video’s script. He was contracted to post a tweet sharing the video as part of the agreement. However, it did not specify the format or content of the tweet’s wording, nor did Sony have any approval over the post. They had specified only that Ozzy Osbourne must share the video in a way which clearly disclosed that he had worked with Sony.
Addressing the tweet itself, Sony believed the word “spot” in the text “Did this spot with the @PlayStation team” would be clearly understood by Twitter users to reference an ad or advertising spot. They provided links to a number of media articles which used the word “spot” to refer to a TV ad. They considered the word “spot” was well-established across media and news outlets to mean a short advertisement and that it would be understood as such by consumers, including Twitter users. They also believed that the placement of that wording at the beginning of the tweet meant it was sufficiently prominent for consumers to understand the commercial nature of the video before they watched it.
The CAP Code stated that marketing communications must be obviously identifiable as such, and that they must make clear their commercial intent if that was not obvious from the context. The ASA considered that consumers should be made aware that a post was an ad before they engaged with it.
We understood that the wording “Did this spot with the @Playstation team” was intended to refer to Ozzy Osbourne’s commercial relationship with Sony, and specifically the TV, VOD and YouTube pre-roll ad he appeared in, which was shown as a video in the tweet. We acknowledged the positioning of that wording in the tweet was both prominent and visible before the video started playing. However, we considered the wording, including the use of the word “spot” to refer to the video, was not sufficient to clearly indicate to consumers that the tweet was part of a commercial relationship between Sony and Ozzy Osbourne and that the tweet was therefore an ad.
The video included features which might have indicated there was a commercial relationship between Sony and Ozzy Osbourne, including the use of PlayStation logos and straplines. However, because there were no clear and upfront identifiers in the tweet or video, we considered the ad was ambiguous as to Ozzy Osbourne’s commercial relationship with Sony. We concluded its commercial intent would not be immediately clear to consumers.
Because the ad did not make clear its commercial intent upfront, we considered it was not obviously identifiable as a marketing communication and concluded that it breached the Code.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 2.1, 2.3 and 2.4 (Recognition of marketing communications).
The ad must not appear again in the form complained about. We told Sony Interactive Entertainment Europe Ltd t/a Sony, and Ozzy Osbourne, to ensure that in future their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications and made clear their commercial intent, for example by including a clear and prominent identifier, such as “#ad”.