By Barry Noone, Teleshopping Copy Group Executive
The issue of verification/verifiability has recently been in the spotlight and we felt that it was time to update you or perhaps introduce the area to you if you are unfamiliar with it. To help, we’ve pulled together a range of help notes, ASA rulings and a list of some claims which will require verification and some that won’t. As usual, all claims need to be assessed on a case-by-case basis, so if you are still unsure whether your ad requires verification, you can contact your Clearcast executive who will advise you accordingly.
BCAP rule 3.35 states
‘comparisons with identifiable competitors must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price. For the comparison to be considered verifiable advertisers must give readers enough information about the comparison to understand it and include a signpost in the ad to that information. If the checking requires special knowledge most consumers are unlikely to have, readers should be able to get a knowledgeable and independent person or organisation to verify the comparison’.
What is verifiability?
If you make comparative advertising claims in your TV ad, then there is a good chance that you will need to include a verification super in the ad so that viewers can go and check out the claim and data for themselves. It’s important to remember that unnamed advertisers can nonetheless be identifiable, and that verification will therefore be needed for most comparative claims.
Why is it important?
If your ad makes a comparative claim and it doesn’t instruct the viewer to check it or if the info isn’t readily accessible, there is potential breach of rule 3.35 and the ad can be investigated by the ASA.
How advertisers can provide the information.
The best way to ensure a comparison is verifiable is to direct consumers to a website that contains information based on the comparison, such as the products, prices and the methodology. Advertisers could, for example, include “comparison can be verified on www…” or “visit www… to verify the comparison” in on-screen text. We would suggest using either of the following methods to notify viewers.
Verification method Examples
- Email – For verification please email “Clearcast” at verification@Clearcast.co.uk
- Postal – For verification please write to Clearcast Verification, Roger Street, London WC1N 2JX
- Web – For verification visit www.Clearcast.co.uk /verification
Examples of claims that require verification.
- ‘UK’s No 1’
- ‘Europe’s Number 1 airline’
- ‘That’s one of the reasons why Clearcast is the UK’s fastest growing clearance brand’.
- ‘#1 Dentist recommended brand worldwide’
- World’s favourite online gambling site’
Examples of Claims that don’t require verification.
- ‘The UK’s No 1 film’ (The ASA don’t think ads featuring this type of claim need to provide viewers with the means to verify the claim. It is easy to find this info online and viewers will understand the basis easily)
- ‘Best-selling debut artist’
Information that can be provided.
For example, if an advertiser is making a ‘UK’s No 1’ claim, they would need to direct viewers to an area of their website which has the substantiation for the claim. When making information available on a website, care needs to be taken to include all the relevant information about the comparison to ensure consumers (or someone with the requisite degree of knowledge) can understand it. This could be published sales data which shows the advertiser having the most sales compared to their major competitors. It is worth noting that comparisons based on commercially sensitive or confidential data should not be made unless the advertiser is prepared, and allowed, to share the relevant information with consumers.
Where advertisers have gone wrong in the past.
The ASA have upheld in cases before where:
-No verification information was provided and consumers couldn’t easily check the claims for themselves.
-The claim could only be verified by purchasing a product and therefore the verification info wasn’t readily accessible.
-The ad contained a website address but didn’t clearly signpost that was how viewers could verify the claim.
-The verification information was provided but contained errors and inconsistencies so couldn’t be easily understood.
-The verification information didn’t contain sufficient information about how the comparison had been made.
Example ASA Rulings
Lidl – The ASA considered that consumers would need to access a breakdown of the prices for each Lidl item in order to fully understand the comparison made in both ads. However they also considered that the ads themselves were not signposted sufficiently clearly where the information could be found.
Golden Charter – The TV ad did not include any information about the figures the claim was based on, nor did it direct consumers to where that information could be found (for example, the URL of a specific page on Golden Charter’s website where the information was stated). They considered the TV ad did not provide sufficient information to ensure the details of the comparison could be verified by consumers and competitors, and therefore concluded that it breached the Code.
BT Broadband – The ASA considered that, because not all the necessary data and results were available, the information provided was not sufficient to ensure the details of the comparison could be verified by consumers and competitors, and concluded that the ad breached the Code.
If you would like further information on how the ASA views comparisons and verifiability please visit the below links for the most up to date information.