The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has produced a useful guide with 6 tips to help you avoid misleading advertising.
What are their 6 tips and how can you put them into practice?
Misleading advertising a key cause of complaints
The ASA reported that last year, 70% of the complaints it received related to misleading advertising. When it released its list of the ads that produced the most complaints in 2017 back in February, ASA Chief Executive Guy Parker said that misleading ads form ‘the bread and butter of our work’.
If you’re regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), you may have a head start in this area, as you already need to meet its strict financial promotions rules. Because you have to comply with the FCA’s fair, clear and not misleading requirements, your promotions should be a step ahead when it comes to being open and honest.
6 tips for compliant advertising
The ASA’s tips for producing ads that meet the rules are:
- Don’t omit key information
All relevant information should be made clear in the ad itself. Any terms or conditions should be stated close to, or clearly linked from, the main claim the ad is making.
This dovetails nicely with the rules FCA-regulated firms need to comply with on displaying disclaimers with the required prominence.
- Make sure your pricing is clear
Pricing needs to relate to the specific product advertised, and include all non-optional charges (such as VAT and booking fees). Although some sectors, like the secondary ticket market, have their own specific guidance, all sectors have to comply with the over-arching principles.
- Don’t exaggerate the capability or performance of a product
Although advertising is – as the ASA says – ‘all about presenting a product in the best possible light’ – this doesn’t mean you can over-claim.
Again, this has particular relevance for financial services. General financial promotions rules, as well as more specific requirements under MiFIDII and PRIIPs, mean that data included in any promotion, including on performance and fees, needs to be highly accurate.
Creating searchable online libraries of pre-Compliance-approved wording, data and other content can help to ensure accuracy, as well as saving save you significant time when producing materials and getting your Compliance team to approve them.
- Make sure any qualifications are clear
Qualifying text can be used to clarify claims made in adverts, but this information needs to be clearly shown and not contradict any claims made in the main body of the ad.
Again, the prominence of any disclaimers is relevant here.
- Have the evidence to back up your claims
Make sure your Compliance team has given the requisite sign off, and ensure your copy meets FCA requirements around clarity and substantiating claims. If you are promoting an investment product, any reference to returns also needs to be compliant. Another tip that has particular pertinence to regulated marketers. Financial promotions rules demand that any claims are substantiated, meaning that in theory your ads should all meet this condition.
- Be careful of claims in product names
It’s often forgotten than all ad content can count as a potential claim – and this includes your product name. If it implies an unproven claim or benefit, this could contravene the rules.
The ASA regulates all advertising in the UK, and provides an additional layer of guidance and boundaries to promotions that already need to comply with, for example, FCA rules.
Meeting its requirements is a prerequisite for any marketer. Whether or not you are governed by an industry-specific regulator, compliance with ASA rules is non-negotiable.