Complaints about potentially misleading advertising make up around 70% of the total number of complaints made to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) every year. To help you avoid misleading consumers and make sure your ads aren’t contributing to this number, the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) have created a simple checklist of some of the key things to consider.
1. Don’t omit material information
Material information is information that the consumer needs to make informed decisions in relation to a product or service. Make sure that you have included all material information which applies to the product or service advertised, and do not mislead by presenting this information in an unclear, unintelligible, ambiguous or untimely manner.
2. Hold evidence for all objective claims
It’s important to bear in mind that the ASA will consider how consumers are likely to understand a claim. Advertisers must hold evidence that can support the claim as it is likely to be understood by the average consumer; having substantiation for the claim as you intended it to be understood won’t pass the test if the likely interpretation is different from the intended meaning.
3. Present qualifications clearly
Qualifications may be necessary to clarify or expand on the meaning of a primary claim, explain limitations or conditions, or communicate any other material information.
Qualifications must be clear and prominent, and must not contradict the claims they qualify in a way which is likely to mislead. Text size, position, overall context, the significance of the information, and the nature of the medium will all affect whether a qualification is considered sufficiently prominent.
4. Don’t exaggerate
Although obvious exaggerations that the average consumer is unlikely to take literally are unlikely to mislead consumers, advertisers should ensure that they do not exaggerate the capability or performance of a product in a way which is likely to mislead.
5. Make sure your price claims are accurate
If using an “up to” or “from” price claim, make sure a significant proportion is available at the price stated, and check the guidance on the use of free before claiming that you are offering anything for free.
6. Make any limitations on availability clear
Make sure that you have made a reasonable estimate of the likely demand of products before they are advertised, and, if estimated demand exceeds supply, include information about the limitation in the ad. As well as this, marketers must monitor stocks and withdraw or amend marketing communications if the product advertised becomes unavailable.
Take a look at Section 3 for a more detailed look at the rules surrounding misleading advertising. These rules apply to all marketing, but some sectors, or types of claims have their own specific rules that you might need to think about as well – such as:
- environmental claims
- weight control and slimming
- food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims
- beauty and cosmetics.
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