A recent complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority has raised a couple of points that have a direct impact on email marketing. The overriding principle is that adverts should not mislead. This is good advice of course: lie to those on your email lists and next time there will be fewer to lie to.
The case involved the makers of Bisto whose complaint was about the content of an advert for Knorr. It suggested that Knorr had ‘unbeatable scores for taste, appearance, consistency and aroma’. It all might have been allowed to continue had it not referenced these claims directly to Bisto.
The ASA was of the opinion that the advert was both misleading and did not explain the method of determining the conclusion. Firstly, they put a great deal of emphasis on the fact that competitive products other than Bisto were included in the research and some were ranked above Knorr. This was, they felt, evidence that the product was not unbeatable.
It was also decided that the readers were entitled to clear access to the research so that they could verify the results themselves and make up their own minds. The small print endorsement that Knorr had included at the bottom of the adverts indicating merely the researcher and the relevant year was felt to be insufficient.
What this means for email marketing is that misleading can include instances where the literal interpretation of the advert is correct. All relevant facts must be taken into account when deciding on a headline. To remain silent on the negative results was, quite clearly, misleading. It also requires that you make access to the research easy and straightforward. They suggest a link to a website where the research can be found in full.
Comparisons between products, especially your closest competitor, can provide excellent returns and a name drop gives the best results. However, it should be remembered that this will excite them and generate a response. So care should be exercised.
The ASA conclusions are not something to agonise over but they should be born in mind when you are tempted to get one over the competition.
The full ASA adjudication is available here