There have been a couple of cases before the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) recently which concern the use of absolute qualifications in advertising. Whilst neither relates directly to email marketing, there are lessons we can learn.
A betting company, one which has been mentioned before on these pages, suggested in a TV advert that an attractive offer was available to ‘everyone’. This was reinforced, rather ironically at it turned out, by an actor phoning the company to complain, saying, “What’s this I hear about your incredible Cheltenham offer being available to everyone, even riff-raff?” Yet not everyone could take part.
A different company, this time selling a mobile network, tried to gain subscribers by offering “all you can eat data”. This was another remarkable offer and all the more enticing as it had no restrictions mentioned in the adverts. However, you’ve guessed it, people were cut off after high useage.
Both adverts used absolutes: in the first case ‘everyone’, which one might assume meant everyone, and in the second, ‘all you can eat data’ suggests unlimited. The defences to the ASA charges were slightly different in each case.
The betting company was of the opinion that by adding the caveat that in certain circumstance they could “reclaim the bonus element… and/or void the offer”. If you agree with them then be aware that the ASA were of a different opinion. They said that the headline stated a fact. The addition material was not a clarification but a repudiation.
The defence from the IT company suggested that their customers would be well briefed on band width and tethering so would understand there would be limitations. Some of these were highlighted later on in the purchasing process.
Further, they felt that ‘all you can eat’ did not mean unlimited. I would assume they knew it was unlikely to run.
In essence the ASA stated that absolute claims in headlines must be supported by the offer. It was not sufficient for the ‘small print’ to contradict it.
Neither case was the only one the companies concerned have been involved in. If your reputation matters to you, and to those on your email marketing lists, then choose your words with care.