In a press campaign Subaru compared its diesel Forester with petrol competitors for economy and the petrol version with diesel competitors for performance. Fair comparison? For the ASA verdict go to
Who: Subaru UK Limited
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority
When: March 2004
A national press advertisement for the Subaru Forrester was headlined "Take the feeling with you from £16,445 to £20,995." The ad included two comparison tables. The first focused on economy and emissions whilst the second looked at power and the time taken to accelerate from 0-60 mph.
Both tables showed that Subaru performed better than did the other vehicles. However, the economy and emissions table compared the Subaru diesel against petrol cars, whilst the performance tables compared the petrol Forrester with mostly diesel cars. A complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority ("ASA") that the comparison tables were on this account unfair and misleading.
Subaru defended on the basis that they believed they had used "like for like" products in the comparisons. This was based on the assertion that all the vehicles shown had similar road selling prices, body style including 5 doors and an engine size of 2 litres. The fact remained, however, that they conveniently compared Subaru's petrol model against diesel competitors for performance, where petrol engines are normally regarded as better performing than diesels. They then compared the diesel Subaru with petrol engined competitors when it came to economy and emissions, where diesels are normally superior.
Because of this, the ASA considered the advertisers had selected the elements of the comparison in such a way as to give their vehicle an artificial advantage. Accordingly, the comparison tables were held to be misleading and unfair and Subaru was requested to seek help from the copy advice team before preparing advertisements featuring comparisons in the future.
Why this matters:
Where products are being compared in non broadcast advertising, the CAP Code makes it clear that elements for comparison should not be selected in such a way as to give the advertiser an artificial advantage. Apples were clearly not being compared with apples in this case, hence the ASA's verdict.