“We can deliver at a time slot that’s right for you” said an Argos TV ad. Did this mean they could deliver at any time specified by the customer or was giving a choice of morning, midday and afternoon delivery slots enough to meet the promise in the ad? Omar Bucchioni delivers a report of a strict ASA verdict.
Topic: Misleading advertising
Who: ASA and Argos Ltd
When: December 2010
Law stated as at: 1 December 2010
Recently the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) investigated a TV ad for Argos, one of the largest general-goods retailers in the United Kingdom.
A TV ad for Argos showed two penguins making a delivery to a walrus. The voice-over said “The walrus spends most of its day dragging its huge mass around, hunting for food. But imagine if it could ‘Argos it’”. The penguins made the delivery and the voice-over continued “With over 1500 lorries, we can deliver what you want at a time slot that’s right for you”. Superimposed text stated “Terms, delivery charges and exclusions apply. Excludes Jewellery”.
Three complainants challenged whether the claim “We can deliver what you want at a time slot thats right for you” was misleading and could be substantiated.
What Argos had to say
Argos defended the claim showing the level of their service. They offered a variety of different delivery options to their customers (clearly published the catalogues, on the website and in store).
In case of normal items, two delivery slots: on weekdays, a morning (7am to 1pm) or afternoon slot (12pm to 8pm) and depending on the type of goods they ordered, customers could choose delivery within 48 hours. Provided a customer placed an order before 1 pm on a weekday, Argos could deliver on a next day basis.
In the cases of bulky items, three delivery slots: morning (7am to 12 pm), midday (10am to 2pm) and afternoon (12pm to 6pm). The day before the delivery, Argos would call or text the customer to advise them of the two-hour time slot in which an order would be delivered. Additionally, the delivery driver would ring one hour before the delivery arrived.
Argos said that viewers would see the ad and then refer to the delivery information available on the website, in their catalogue or in store. They believed that the claim “a slot that’s right for you” was not misleading because customers were allocated a time period in which they could expect a delivery. Argos believed offering a morning or an afternoon slot was enough in keeping with the claim “… at a time slot that’s right for you”.
What Clearcast had to say
Clearcast took Argos’s side on this (although this is not surprising since Clearcast would have cleared the ad for airing in the fist place). They considered the slot reference was not an absolute promise that customers could choose a certain delivery slot but that it simply highlighted that Argos had delivery slots available. They also considered that the disclaimer “Terms, delivery charges and exclusions apply. Excludes Jewellery” was enough for viewers to understand that they could not expect to be able to demand a specific delivery time since further conditions applied to the ad.
What the ASA had to say
The ASA Council (Broadcast) upheld the complaints:
They noted that Argos provided a number of delivery options to customers and that Argos told customers whether the delivery would have been in the morning or afternoon and in the case of larger items, Argos chose a specific two-hour time period within their three delivery slots.
However, the claim “we can deliver when you want at a time slot that’s right for you” implied that customers could specify a delivery time of their choosing, which was at their convenience, and therefore that they had a wide degree of choice about when their goods would be delivered.
The ASA Council (Broadcast) decided that that was not the case and concluded that the ad was misleading and breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Substantiation) and 3.10 (Qualifications).
Why this matters:
Has the ASA Council (Broadcast) been too harsh on this occasion? Argos provided different delivery options and we would expect that an average viewer should have expected to receive a delivery within reason (i.e. choosing a time slot from those available).
Although this is outside the ASA’s remit, we should note that Tesco seems to be following Argos’s line of interpretation when on its website it specifies that “If this next-day delivery does not suit you, just text back your preferred day from the options provided, and we will deliver it when you want.”! Does this mean that a reasonable customer would really expect a delivery option personalised within the 24 hour slot or only within slots that Tesco has chosen for them in advance?
The Tesco delivery option can be found at http://direct.tesco.com/help/deliveryitems.aspx
Once again, advertisers need to stay on a safe side and be wary of using terms which, though they may be understood and interpreted in a certain way in a particular industry, may not be similarly interpreted by the ASA Council (Broadcast).
The case is reported on the ASA website at http://www.asa.org.uk/ASA-action/Adjudications/2010/12/Argos-Ltd/TF_ADJ_49462.aspx