business development manager at Alliance Advertising and Marketing, discusses the price comparison claims in advertising, and the need to adhere to ASA rules.
Every marketer worth his salt will tell you that 90% of client’s brief always state either expressly, or in an implied manner, that their product is bigger and better than the bunch, its way ahead and most importantly way cheaper than their competition; and quite frankly, who can blame them? With the advancement of technology and fierce competition
it’s becoming difficult for brands to come up with their Unique Selling Points (USP) let alone finding a niche – therefore the only way out is to roll up the sleeves and get into the price wars.Whether the price war or price comparison is good for the client’s business or not is a separate debate; the real challenge for marketers is how to draft client’s communication and design their campaigns while adhering to Advertising Standards Agency ASA guidelines.
Gone are the days where the competition can hide behind trademark infringement laws to avoid comparison, the courts in effect decided that’s not going to happen ever since the O2
vs. 3 case back in 2008. However, the law is still watertight in ensuring malicious or misleading comparison cannot be made. The CAP code 3.39 and 3.40 deals with the issue of price comparison and states: 3.39 – Marketing communications that include a price comparison must make the basis of the comparison clear. 3.40 – Price comparisons must not mislead by falsely claiming a price advantage. Comparisons with a recommended retail prices (RRPs) are likely to mislead if the RRP differs significantly from the price at which the product or service is generally sold.Clear comparisons
In short two basic points must always be considered, firstly the basis of price comparisons
must always be made clear. And secondly, marketers should ensure that they do not compare promotional prices with non-promotional prices without due notice.
The basic principle of the CAP Code is that all advertising should be legal, decent, honest and truthful; therefore it is importantthat any prices quoted should be accurate, up to date andinclude all ‘hidden’ costs associated with the product. Which means adopting clever tricks such as comparing competitors VAT inclusive pricing with your VAT exclusive pricing,
masking the currency or adopting other such means to gather unfair advantage will generally lead to sanctions by ASA. Moreover, it is advisable to include the date on which the prices were verified. Advertising in magazines, even if including
the date of verification, when the sector is prone to regular price changes may risk a complaint being lodged that the advert has become misleading due to inaccurate prices.
Sale prices This brings us to the second point; what about comparing promotional or sale prices, I mean that’s the whole point of sale right? Thankfully it’s not banned. However, basic maxims must be understood that while there is no prohibition on comparing promotional prices with non-promotional prices the advertiser should make it clear that its competitors’ prices are not on promotion. Furthermore, they should also set out the end date of the advertiser’s promotion and most importantly they should ensure that the prices are accurate.
Take for example the case against Morrison’s advert featuring a basket comparison with its competitors; in the small print of the advert included the text ‘comparison includes promotions’. Notice that while they did imply the comparison was being made with promotional items, the ASA still considered that this was misleading, the reason being that it was not sufficiently clear that the comparison was of promotional products vs.
non-promotional products from its competitors.
Therefore any communication in this regard must always be kept crystal clear in order to avoid any hindrance. We know what you must be thinking, but what about the general price claim? The old but gold lowest price guaranteed tagline which has been the trusted arsenal of marketers since the dawn of modern advertising. We will look into that aspect
in our next issue. Until then here is a fingertip rule, when in doubt, consult a professional advisor and keep your brand and agency squeaky clean!