New qualifications guidance
Qualifications are essential to many of the ads consumers see, hear and respond to. They’re the additional pieces of information that ensure consumers properly understand the headline or central (primary) claims being made.
Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has refreshed its guidance on the use of qualifications in non-broadcast media to help marketers to get it right. Qualifying your primary claims effectively is, in many cases, the difference between the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) deciding whether an ad has breached the CAP Code or not.
Marketing communications must state significant limitations and qualifications. Qualifications may clarify but must not contradict the claims that they qualify (rule 3.10). In practice, this means things like conditions that a consumer must meet to take advantage of an offer or restrictions on the scope of the primary claim. The big no-no are qualifications that contradict. For example, “Free” offers that try to use a qualifier to explain that there’s a cost to the consumer.
Clarity is really important (rule 3.10). The information should be clear and legible capturing the consumer’s attention in a given media or ad format. Marketers need to think about factors like:
- the size of qualifying text (is it readable across different devices and at the likely viewing distance?),
- its orientation (horizontal is definitely easier to read than vertical), and
- its clarity (ads shouldn’t hide qualifiers using in light-on-light text/background combinations.
Use the ‘ladder’
The guidance includes a handy tool to help get the prominence of qualifications right. The ‘qualifications ladder’ breaks ads down into levels of prominence; headline, sub-heading, body copy and footnote. Marketers creating ads will find it useful to think about where their qualifier should sit on the ladder in relation to a primary claim. The more important the qualifier, the higher it should be; for instance, headline primary claim >> sub-heading qualification.
Think about the media
The ASA will take the characteristics of different media into account when ruling on an ad. The guidance has some new and useful things to say about the differences between printed matter that consumers have to hand (like newspapers and direct mailings) and media limited by time and space (like VoD and other audio-visual ads).
Make sure you check it out below:
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