Opinion advertising

Nov 30th '19

Objective claims in advertising must always be supported by evidence. Subjective claims do not usually need to be supported by evidence as long as it is clear that marketers are expressing an opinion and not stating a fact (Rule 3.6).


Subjective claims are generally those which consumers will interpret as an opinion about the product and service, such as “my favourite”, or those that refer to aspects of a product or service which are based on personal subjective preference, such as look, taste, or feel.


Marketers should not try to present objective claims as subjective opinions or testimonials in order to make a claim without having the supporting evidence. Examples of this is putting quotation marks round an objective claim, or prefixing a claim with “users though”, or similar. Even if a claim is presented as an opinion, if it is an objective claim it must be supported by evidence which substantiates the claim (rule 3.7).


Some claims might be considered subjective in one context but objective in another. For example, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has considered that “best value”, when used in the context of price, might be seen to be a claim to be the cheapest. In other contexts, such as quality of service, composition and specification of product and other, more intangible aspects of good or service, “value” might be seen as more subjective (Ultravox Holdings Ltd, 22 August 2007). Similarly, the ASA has considered claims such as “best”, “favourite” (best-selling) and “ultimate” (best-performing) objective in some contexts but subjective in others.


Certain types of claims, such as those made by pressure groups, charities or campaigners are likely to promote one point of view over another. Such groups are not obliged to present a balance of for- and against- arguments in their ads, and the Code states that the ASA does not arbitrate between conflicting ideologies. If marketers are obviously expressing opinions about their beliefs, the ASA is unlikely to intervene unless marcoms mislead or offend (Lydd Airport Action Group, 27 June 2007). However, marketers are still expected to ensure their claims are accurate and backed by evidence (Friends of the Earth Ltd, 10 July 2019 and Both Lives Matter, 2 August 2017).


Testimonials expressing opinions may be used but, if they relate to a claim that can be measured objectively (for example, a product’s efficacy), the claim should be supported with independent evidence of its accuracy. An ad for CEASE therapy which included testimonials was upheld by the ASA, who considered that visitors to the website would understand the claims in the testimonial as factual, and as relating to the objective benefits of CEASE therapy.  They therefore considered that the ad made claims for the efficacy of CEASE therapy in treating autism, and they had no evidence to support this claim (Teddington Homeopathy, 22 July 2015).


Source: Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP)


Note: This advice is given by the CAP Executive about non-broadcast advertising. It does not constitute legal advice. It does not bind CAP, CAP advisory panels or the ASA. CAP’s AdviceOnline entries provide guidance on interpreting the UK Code of Non-broadcast Advertising and Direct & Promotional Marketing.


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