ASA: omission of promotional T&Cs: prettylittlething
What information must be included in the main body of an advert?
The following adverts and posts were seen on posters, Instagram, Twitter and prettylittlething.com:
- poster advert, seen in three locations between 25 January and 7 February 2018, stated: “WANT FREE CLOTHES? FOLLOW US ON INSTAGRAM @PRETTYLITTLETHING prettylittlething.com”;
- an Instagram advert, presented as an Instastory, featured on Prettylittlething’s Instagram account, seen on 1 February 2018, stated: “SEEN OUR BILLBOARDS? TO ENTER…STEP 1: FOLLOW @PRETTYLITTLETHING STEP 2: COMMENT ‘FREE CLOTHES’ ON ANY POST!”;
- Tweet, featured on Prettylittlething’s Twitter account, seen on 21 February 2018, stated: “WIN £1,000 PLT vouchers find the PLT unicorn on our Instagram, FOLLOW and comment “PLTUnicorn” on the post Instagram.com/prettylittlething”; and
- an Instagram ad, presented as an Instastory, featured on Prettylittlething’s Instagram account, seen on 21 February 2018, stated “SPOT THE UNICORN! TO ENTER: Find the PLT unicorn on @Prettylittlething Instagram feed and comment ‘PLTunicorn’ MAKE SURE YOU’RE FOLLOWING PLT TOO!”.
The ASA received five complaints challenging whether, by omitting the terms and conditions from the adverts, these adverts were misleading.
Prettylittlething stated that for adverts (a) and (b), this was a limited time promotion from 2 January to 30 February 2018 and the idea was to take consumers on a “journey” from seeing the poster advert to its Instagram account, which would feature the Instagram story with the prize details. The Instagram story was later amended so that the terms and conditions could be found by swiping up from the story. The terms and conditions were also available on prettylittlething’s Facebook page. Regarding adverts (c) and (d), prettylittlething informed the ASA that this was a time limited competition from 19 February to 28 February, and the terms and conditions could be found on the relevant Instagram story. Prettylittlething stated that in the future, the Instagram story would include a link to the full terms.
The complaints were upheld.
The CAP code states that all marketing communications or materials referring to promotions need to communicate “all applicable significant conditions or information”, and the omission of such conditions or information is likely to mislead. While the ASA welcomed prettylittlething’s move to link to the terms and conditions in the Instagram stories in the future, and adverts (b) and (d) were later amended, none of the adverts had referenced or provided links to the terms and conditions at the point when they were seen by the complainants. This means that the complainants were unable to retain or easily access the terms prior to entering the promotions. The ASA further considered that more significant conditions such as the closing date and any applicable age restrictions should have been included in the main advert in both online and offline formats, rather than linking to such conditions.
Advert (a) did not include any detailed information about how to enter the prize draw without undertaking several steps. Further, consumers were unlikely to be aware of the applicable age restrictions as the information was not included in the adverts. Additionally, no closing dates were given. These conditions were significant conditions which were likely to influence consumers’ understanding of the promotion and their decision whether to enter. Therefore, because the adverts did not include all the significant terms and conditions relating to the promotions, they had breached the CAP code.
Why is this important?
This ruling highlights that even if the terms and conditions are available at some point in an advert (eg by swiping up on the Instagram story), or are later added to an advert, certain significant conditions must still be present in the main body. Any terms and conditions which are likely to influence consumers’ understanding of the promotion or their decision as to whether to enter it should be presented in the main body of the advert, otherwise the advert may be likely to be in breach of the CAP code.
Any practical tips?Assess any prize promotions to consider what terms and conditions are likely to be “significant” in light of the CAP code, and ensure that such information is included in the main body of the advert. Further, include a link or a method of accessing the full set of terms and conditions somewhere in the advert at all times. If your marketing team push back on you, you could do worse than sharing this ASA adjudication with them!