The advertising standards authority (ASA) has upheld a number of complaints recently (see http://www.cap.org.uk/News-reports/Media-Centre/2013/Holiday-Promotions.aspx) about wording in advertisements. The implications are of interest those of us engaged in bulk email marketing.
There is nothing really earth-shattering in the decisions, in fact the real surprise was that a large company would choose the wording they did.
One hotel described itself as ideal for families and family friendly. These terms are delightfully vague, with no legal definition, hence the involvement of the ASA. They concerned themselves with the impression such phrases would bring to the mind of anyone reading the advertisement.
In this specific case the hotel was in the entertainment centre of the town with bars and clubs nearby that generated noise and other disturbances all night long. By any definition of the phrases, this could not be in any way suitable for families.
There was a similar case where the interpretation of family came up, this time for that ever popular bulk email marketing ploy of a prize, in this instance a chance to “win a week’s luxury family holiday”. Despite the small print explaining that it excluded school bank holidays, the ASA was firmly of the opinion that anyone reading the word family would assume that it included the times when kids were at school.
The general rule is that the wording of headlines must not mislead. Even with the small print being bigger, the headline would have given a reason for a person to open the bulk marketing email.
It goes further. A company used a generic Maltese Tourist Authority image of a photogenic waterfront building in an advertisement for a hotel which was, unfortunately, some distance inland.
Whilst these instances all relate to the travel industry the basic principles apply to most things in bulk email marketing. In such a competitive industry you have to make your headlines as competitive as possible and the images need to be eye-catching and evocative.
These decisions from the ASA show quite clearly that there is a line in the sand. You cannot mislead. An adjudication that goes against you could be costly in more ways than one. Pick your words carefully and read them as a customer would. Perhaps get your family to help.