A recent verdict by Ofcom on misleading sponsor’s credits in a radio broadcast begged the question of why these advertising messages are outside the UK’s broadcast ad pre-vetting regime.
Who: Factory Direct and Metro Radio
When: November and December 2005
Budget Windows complained to Ofcom regarding sponsor' credits for Metro Radio's three day weather forecast. The sponsor was Factory Direct and the credit claimed "No one saves you more money". Competitor Budget Windows questioned the veracity of the claim and queried whether it could be substantiated.
Unlike normal spot advertising on radio or TV, sponsors' credits or "break-bumpers" as they are called, do not have to be pre-cleared by the Broadcast or Radio Advertising Clearance Centres. In each case it is up to the broadcaster to ensure, in conjunction with the sponsor and its agency, that the content is fully compliant with the relevant Code.
In this case, Metro Radio admitted that adequate substantiation for this claim had not been obtained prior to broadcast. They said that even before receiving notice of Budget Windows' complaint, the error had been spotted and steps were already in train to amend the claim.
The broadcaster's prompt action in the case was sufficient to assuage Ofcom, who declined to pronounce a "Breach of the code" verdict, merely determining the "complaint resolved".
Why this matters:
It is something of an anomaly that sponsors' credits are outside the remit of the Radio and Broadcasting Advertising Clearance Centres. They might say that given the already huge workload under which they labour, they are very happy for Ofcom to take some of the burden off their shoulders.
This case, however, is not the first of its type and we believe it will only be a matter of time before Ofcom takes the view that this type of broadcast advertising should be pre-vetted in the same way as spot ads. Perhaps this might be the first broadcast ad pre-vetting task that Ofcom hands to the Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice, who have for some have time been pressing for a more active role in that process.