Paul Jenkins, non-executive independent chairman of the Caxton and CTP Board, has responded to Shopper’s Friend CEO Jacques Coetzee’s decision to appeal a finding by the Advertising Standard Authorities (ASA) that Paarl Media and Shopper’s Friend were in breach of the ASA Code when it published a brochure in which it made several claims as to its efficacy [see below]. Coetzee was responding to a piece written for TheMediaOnline by Gill Randall, MD of Caxton’s Newspaper Advertising Bureau, in which she unpacked the ASA’s decision, and accused Paarl Media of misleading the industry. Coetzee, in turn, said Randall had published “selective information” and announced that Paarl Media would be appealing the decision.
Paarl Media says it is shooting back, but it is not really; it’s rather like being attacked by someone wielding a wet snoek. Of course the ASA ruling on its Shopper’s Friend brochure will be challenged by Paarl Media; anything to obfuscate the fact that it got a massive kick from the ASA and lost the case.
The old adage of “empty vessels make the most noise” is clearly applicable here. Despite banging on about its appeal, Paarl Media doesn’t mention its “concession ” in respect of one of its most egregious and misleading claims, one that was central to the message in its disputed brochure, namely “Which one of these have you read in the last week?”
In this claim, Paarl Media falsely sought to portray how many people read the Shopper’s Friend advertising jacket and a community newspaper.
The ASA found that “ The Directorate rejects the substantiation provided as it is not in terms of Clause 4.1 of section II of the Code” and “ Given the above, the claims are in contravention of clause 7 of Section II and by implication Clause 4.2.1. This aspect of the complaint is upheld. ”
Shopper’s Friend has now admitted in its appeal notice that it cannot substantiate its above claim of readership of Shopper’s Friend. In its own words, it admits that “…the research done in regard to this claim was conducted for a purpose which was different to the conclusion claimed at page 9 of the brochure. ”
It concedes in its appeal notice that the findings of the ASA on this point are not disputed. (The appeal notice is attached for you to verify the position- paragraph 16 and 20).
Caxton will of course oppose the appeal on the other points, which are without merit.
Stripped of all the bluster, the Shopper’s Friend brochure remains inarguably misleading in at least one central respect, with a Section II ASA Code contravention of clause 4.1-Substantiation, clause 4.2.1- Misleading claims and clause 7-Comparative advertising. Thus the ASA ruling in this regard stands and the credibility of the offending brochure, in our respectful view, remains in tatters.
Lastly, whereas the ASA Code requires an advertiser to have its substantiation ready before publication, Paarl Media took a few weeks to submit a large file of substantiation to the ASA, which was then rejected. Paarl Media now wants another bite at the cherry, having latched onto a provision in the Code which gives the ASA a discretion to consider additional substantiation. No right–minded person should fall for this kind of behaviour. It’s like failing and wanting to write the exam again and insisting on getting the same questions.
Shopper’s Friend’s rearguard defence of its brochure is as untenable as Laurent Gbagbo’s claims of an election victory.”
Read Gill Randall’s piece here: http://themediaonline.co.za/2011/04/caxton-wins-asa-case-against-paarl-media-and-shoppers-friend/
Read Jacques Coetzee’s response here: http://themediaonline.co.za/2011/04/shopper%e2%80%99s-friend-appeals-asa-ruling-%e2%80%93-takes-issue-with-caxton/