Who: GPS (Great Britain) Ltd trading as GAP and the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 5 August 2015
Law stated as at: 10 August 2015
An email from Gap promoting a sales promotion in its GAP Outlet stores stated in a prominent orange box:
“Everything under the sun. It’s all 40% off … excluding sale items …”.
The ASA received a complaint challenging the claim that everything in the shop was 40% off because in small print at the bottom of the ad it said
“40% off Everything: Excluding sale items. Offer applies to select products as indicated at participating Gap Outlet stores in the UK”.
Gap said that the “excluding sale items” qualifier was written in prominent block capital letters just under the headline “everything under the sun” and “it’s all 40% off”. They believed that it would be very unlikely for email recipients to just read the headline and nothing else. They also submitted that the overall context of the ad was key to deciding whether consumers were likely to be misled and the “overt prominence” of the qualification in the headline meant it would be clear that the discount applied to everything except sale items.
Despite these arguments, the ASA believed that consumers were likely to interpret the headline claims “everything under the sun” and “it’s all 40% off” as meaning that the offer applied to everything in the store. The regulator did acknowledge that Gap mentioned in the email that sale items were not included. However the ASA considered that, regardless of how prominently the qualifying wording appeared, in the context of a promotion for a clothing store, the exclusion of articles of clothing that were already on sale in the store contradicted the “it’s all 40% off” offer rather than clarified it. The ASA concluded that the ad was misleading and breached the code.
The ad breached the CAP code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.9 (Qualification), and 8.2 (Sales promotions).
Why this matters:
The decision underlines that no matter how prominently a claim is qualified, if the qualification contradicts the claim, the chances are that it will not prevent the ad from being misleading in the eyes of the ASA.