Last year, Caxton submitted a number of complaints to the ASA regarding a Shoppers Friend advertising brochure circulated within the marketing and media industry. The advertising brochure was used to promote Shoppers Friend as a medium to distribute loose inserts. The target market was decisionmakers within media, marketing and communication sectors.
Of the 10 complaints dealt with, eight were upheld by the ASA and found to be in breach of the ASA Code.
Of the eight breaches, the ASA found that Paarl Media (Shoppers Friend) was in breach of all five clauses of the Code that Caxton had cited, namely: Honesty, Substantiation, Misleading, Disparagement and Comparative advertising.
How the ASA ruled against Paarl Media (Naspers) and its Shoppers Friend Brochure: The Best Way To Distribute Loose Inserts.
Paarl Media were instructed to:
- Withdraw all claims or references found against this ruling;
- The process to withdraw these claims or references must be actioned with immediate effect on receipt of this ruling (17 March 2011);
- The withdrawal of these claims or references must be completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural guide; and
- These claims or references may not be used again in its current format.
The finding is a huge indictment of Paarl Media and Naspers as a whole, given its position as a dominant player in the media industry. it effectively means the advertising brochure was found to be misleading and dishonest.
The 10 complaints and how the ASA ruled on them (the details)
- “The best way to deliver loose insert”
The ASA could not locate this claim in the brochure and therefore declined to deal with the claim. (Erroneous inclusion)
- “The best way to distribute loose insert”
This is a complaint about the front cover of the brochure.The ASA found that the brochure was in breach of code (not substantiated) on this complaint. The words complained of are stated on the front page of the brochure.
The ASA state if Paarl Media are to make these claims, they must have evidence in accordance with the clause in the Code dealing with Substantiation. Paarl Media had no evidence and was in breach.
- “Better reach – weekly deliveries to more than 2 million Gauteng households”
Again the ASA found that this claim was in breach of code (not substantiated). There was no evidence to support the statement.
- “Wastage: the enemy of the advertiser – comparing the two methods of reaching gated communities”
The ASA found that Paarl Media was in breach of three clauses of the Code namely, disparagement and by implication comparative advertising and substantiation.
SF failed to submit any proof that its claimed distribution was factual or verified. Furthermore there was no evidence of the claimed “wastage” of Caxton’s products.
- “Which one of these have you read in the past week”
Again, the ASA found no substantiation to support the data and therefore found Paarl Media in breach of the Code (substantiation).
- “Better Penetration – no bulk deliveries, less waste, direct to households”
The ASA found no substantiation to support the claim and therefore found Paarl Media in breach of the Code (substantiation).
SF states in brochure that “Shoppers Friend did research at a selection of security complexes around JHB and found that more than 50% of products never enter a household”. This was not substantiated.
- “How many households see more than 2 copies …This level of duplication is untested but significant”
The ASA found this claim to be too vague to investigate and therefore could not consider it.
- “Better response – proven better than the closest competitor”
The ASA found no substantiation to supports the claim and therefore found Paarl Media in breach of the Code (substantiation).
This was based on the SMS ‘identical” advertisement response campaign in which 4 Caxton newspapers and the Star are compared to the full print run’s response of SF.
The ASA stated that all variables should be consistent (same size, placement, all Caxton Newspapers) in order to produce valid results. This was not the case.
- “In which of these papers would you prefer to get your advertising inserts?”
The ASA found that Paarl Media was in breach of three clauses of the Code, namely, disparagement and by implication comparative advertising and honesty.
- “Which one of these have you read?”
The ASA found that Paarl Media was in breach of the Code in terms of two clauses namely, comparative advertising and by implication substantiation.
The ASA found that the above constitutes comparative advertising and as such should be capable of substantiation. No accreditation was submitted and therefore the claims are false and misleading.
This is not the first occasion in recent times that Caxton has been forced to submit a complaint to the ASA with regard to misleading and untrue information being circulated by a division of the Naspers group.
In conclusion, we are disappointed that the advertising industry has been misled by a major media player which is fully conversant with the provisions of the ASA Code.