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ASA ruling on Dyson

Published on 21 January 2020

How careful do you need to be when making factually correct claims in a context which might change their meaning?

The key takeaway

When promoting the specifications of a product, make sure that other elements of an ad don’t make the claim misleading.

The ad

A video ad on Dyson’s website which aired in July showed the testing of Dyson’s Light Ball Multi Floor vacuum cleaner being used around a house. There was a scene that showed the product plugged in at the bottom of some stairs whilst a technician climbed to the top step using the detachable nozzle of the vacuum. As this scene was being shown, a voiceover referred to an “instant release wand, with a total 13.8 metre reach”

The complaint

The ad received one complaint that the ad “misleadingly implied” that the length of the hose between the vacuum cleaner and the wand was 13.8 metres, despite its actual reach being “significantly shorter” at just 4.4 metres.

The response

Dyson explained that the voiceover listed various attributes of the product including, “improved engineering to make it quieter”, “it is easier to carry” and “included an instant release wand; with a total 13.8 metre reach”. According to Dyson, the statements were separate features and should not have been read as meaning that the release wand was 13.8 metres long.

Dyson also stated that that the “total reach” represented the measurement from the plug socket to the end of the longest combination of included accessories. 

The decision

The ad was banned for wrongly implying that the length of its vacuum hose stretched more than triple its actual reach. An ASA spokesman added that the 13.8 metre reach should only be used to refer to the distance from the plug socket to the nozzle. 

Why is this important?

The ruling reminds us that the ASA looks at ads through the eyes of the average consumer. In this case, the consumer would interpret the claims “instant release wand” and “with a total 13.8 metre reach” together and would therefore take the claim to mean that this was the maximum length of the hose when extended, from the main machine to the model. 

Any practical tips?

Make sure your creative team resists the temptation to include something that is factually correct in a context which becomes misleading. Here, the plug socket to nozzle length was indeed 13.8 metres, but it was used alongside a reference to the instant release wand which was never going to reach that far from the main machine. Taking care over the presentation of claims (whether verbally or visually) is the key to prevent your ad being pulled.