A YouTube ad for online beauty retailer www.feelunique.com claimed it was “the UK’s favourite beauty store.” Competitor Beautybay.com challenged, but Feelunique responded with evidence of highest sales in the last financial year. Did this save its day? Emma Harrington reports the ASA’s verdict.
Who: thebigwebsite LTD trading as feelunique.com (“Feelunique.com”); Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”)
When: 21 November 2012
Law as stated at: 21 November 2012
An online advert which stated that Feelunique.com was “the UK’s favourite online beauty store” was found by the ASA to be misleading and the ad was banned.
A Feelunique.com video advertisement on YouTube showed various products and beauty brands. Underneath the ad, text was shown which stated: “feelunique.com brings you outstanding value beauty, grooming and health products straight to your
A competitor to Feelunique.com challenged whether the claim “the UK’s favourite online beauty store” could be substantiated.
In their response to the complaint, Feelunique.com submitted a market research report and data relating to website visits.
They stated that the documents showed their website to be the most popular when compared with their competitors, and that they had the highest sales figures for the financial year.
Feelunique.com’s claim to be “the UK’s favourite online beauty store” was based on a comparison with other UK online-only beauty retailers, rather than multi-channel retailers. They believed that the basis of this comparison was clear in the use of the words “favourite online beauty store”.
The ASA considered that the claim of being the “UK’s favourite” in the context of an advertisement which included the words “Choose from a diverse selection of over 17,500 products”, would be understood by consumers to relate to the number of product sales. In their response to the complaint, Feelunique.com had shown that their sales figures were higher than other online-only UK beauty stores for 2010 and 2011. However, the ASA took the view that consumers “would understand the comparison to be with all UK beauty stores available online, including those who also traded via other channels”, and Feelunique.com had not shown evidence to this effect.
In relation to the website data submitted by Feelunique.com, the ASA considered that this demonstrated that the website had received more visits for most months between March and August 2012, when compared with some other online beauty retailers. However, the ASA stated that it was necessary for claims relating to the popularity of a website to be supported by data which related to the number of visitors, not visits.
As a consequence of the above assessments, the ASA upheld the complaint and found the ad to be in breach of the CAP Code (rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising); 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.9 (Qualification), and 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons with identifiable competitors)). The ASA ruled that the ad should not appear again in its current form.
Why this matters:
This adjudication highlights that advertisers should consider the ways in which consumers could interpret their claims, in order to ensure that such claims are sufficiently substantiated and do not mislead. As this case demonstrates, a claim to be the favourite “online beauty store” may not be interpreted by all to mean the favourite “online-only beauty store”. Language must be carefully chosen in order to accurately reflect the claim that the marketer intends to make.
This judgment sets out the following additional take-home points:
- with regard to substantiation, claims relating to the popularity of a website need to be “supported by data that relate[s] to unique visitors, rather than visits”; and
- marketers must be conscious that the content of an advert can affect the consumer’s view of how the marketer has justified the claims contained within it. In this case, the ASA stated that “in the context of the ad which stated “Choose from a diverse selection of over 17,500 products”, readers would understand the claim “the UK’s favourite online beauty store” to mean that feelunique.com sold more products than any other online UK beauty store.”
It is clear from the above that marketers should carefully consider their audience and how that audience might interpret their marketing messages.