The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) has recently issued advice following complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about the holiday industry, specifically on the subject of misleading advertisements. The matters were similar in that they concerned the ways a hotel and a prize draw were described. The decision has implications for every business, especially ones using bulk email marketing, and assist in understanding good practice.
One aspect of the criticisms was about an advertisement describing a hotel as “ideal for families” and “family friendly”. Ideal is a useful adjective. It gives the impression of being almost, but not quite, perfect.
A hotel which has crèche facilities, perhaps a shallow paddling pool with lifeguards in attendance and little entertainments for the little ones could rightly suggest that it has taken the needs of children on board. But is it worthy of ideal?
The hotel in question was right in the middle of the entertainment area of the town, and surrounded by clubs and bars. Noise was constant throughout the night and this was the substance of the complaint to the CAP. By any interpretation, this is not ideal for a family holiday.
The advice is, as everyone engaged in bulk email marketing has already worked out no doubt, that you should consider how your average consumer would interpret a particular description. Family friendly is a vague adjective but gives rise to the impression of quiet nights.
The logic of the hotel going for the family market when it is in the middle of 24-hour cacophony is thin to say the least. Better marketing might have been to go with the flow and suggest you are perfect for the young and late night revellers.
In a similar vein, the ASA recently criticised a company advertising holidays in Malta for using a generic image, supplied by the Maltese Tourist Authority, which showed a building situated delightfully on the waterfront. The complainant was upset that the hotel was some way inland.
There is nothing to stop you including a photograph of the local area of course, but it should not be done in a way to mislead readers. It should not be the main picture without it being clear the hotel was not nearby.
The ASA concerned itself again with how ‘family’ used as a descriptor would be understood. Competitions are useful hooks to grab attention in bulk email marketing and few more so that an enticing holiday. Who would not open an email when there was a chance to “Win a week’s luxury family holiday”?
In the small print there was a condition: ‘excluding school and bank holidays’. The question the ASA considered was whether the word family would generate in the mind of a potential competitor the idea that it would be within school holidays. Not surprisingly they suggested it would.
The decisions are hardly inconsistent with previous ones and there seems little excuse for such loose wording. A good headline is an essential for bulk email marketing, but it has to be precise. Before you click the send button, consider how your recipients, and the ASA of course, will understand it.
The CAP decision. http://www.cap.org.uk/News-reports/Media-Centre/2013/Holiday-Promotions.aspx