With no statutory definition of a child, advertisers continue to get into difficulty with age restrictions on promotions. The CAP Code currently defines a “child” as “anyone under 16,” but what if a promotion is restricted to under 12s and are “kids” younger than “children”? Joseph Kitchingham investigates.
Who: Euro Disney Associs SCA t/a Disneyland Paris
When: April 2010
Law stated as at: 28 April 2010
A TV advert, showing a series of rides at Disneyland Paris, contained a voice-over which stated “Hop over to the magic of Disneyland Paris and meet all your family’s favourite characters. From January 3 to April 1 enjoy two nights three days from only £150 per adult in a Disney hotel. Plus all kids go free …” The text “all kids go free” appeared in gold on the screen. However, on-screen text that also appeared on the advert stated “One paying adult per room. Kids under 12. Excludes transport …”
Whilst there was only a solitary complainant, the viewer challenged the advert on the grounds that they felt it to be misleading. The basis for this arose because they believed the claim “All kids go free” was subsequently contradicted by the on-screen text “kids under 12″.
Euro Disney Associs SCA (Euro Disney) said the advert clearly stated on screen that children had to be under the age of 12 to be eligible for the offer and also invited the viewer to check full terms and conditions on their website. They said it was common in the airline industry to define children as 2 to 11 years of age and attached examples evidencing this.
Clearcast (an NGO which pre-approves the vast majority of British television advertising on behalf of the commercial TV networks) stated that they had made sure the material parts of the offer were made clear to the viewer. They said “kids” referred to younger children – those aged 12 and under – and airlines used a similar classification when pricing air fares. It was argued that Eurostar, the other widely used method of travelling to the park, had a similar policy with “children” aged 4 to 11 enjoying lower prices in comparison to “youths” – those aged between 12 and 25.
Although confident that use of the phrase “all kids” was consistent with the travel and holiday industry’s classification of a child, Clearcast nonetheless requested that the advertiser include the qualifying text “kids under 12″.
The ASA upheld the complaint.
In the adjudication produced by the ASA, it was noted the travel and holiday industry generally defined “kids” as younger children aged 2 to 11. However, the adjudicators considered the average viewer might not hold such a specific definition, and the claim “All kids go free” was contradicted rather than clarified by the claim “kids under 12″. In light of that fact, the panel concluded the advert to be misleading.
The advert breached CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code rules 5.1.1 and 5.1.2 (Misleading advertising) and 5.2.3 (Qualifications).
The ASA ruled that the advert could no longer be broadcast in its current form, alterations had to be made.
Why it matters:
As a watchdog for the enforcement of the British Advertising Codes, the ASA makes a pledge to “…ensure that consumers do not just enjoy the ads they see, but they can trust them too.” This adjudication emphasizes the fact that the old adage “The customer is always right” continues to be a mainstay within the advertising industry.
The crux of this adjudication rested on whether common perception or a widely used industry definition was most applicable. Euro Disney’s arguments for the latter were undoubtedly finely constructed, however it was not to be, with the likely perception of the general public holding sway. The use of the word “all” as in “All kids go free” was clearly another hurdle for it to overcome.