So often car advertisers are caught out when they show the right car in the wrong ad. Can small qualifying print save the day?
Who: Nissan Motors (B>Who: Nissan Motors (GB) Ltd. and the Advertising Standards Authority
When: June 2001
A magazine ad for Nissan was headlined: "We’ve got nothing to say about an advance payment. But then, that’s because we don’t ask for one." A Nissan Almera was pictured and body copy referred to the Nissan Almera 1.5 E, stating that it was "now available to drive away without having to pay a penny up front." At the top of the ad in small print appeared the caption "Nil advance payment is available on Almera 1.5E 3/5 door only…model shown is Almera 1.8 Sports+ 3 door for illustration purposes only."
The ensuing complaint was that the ad was misleading owing to the car pictured not being available without advance payment. Nissan defended on the basis that the caption at the top of the page was clear: the visual was merely there to illustrate the whole Almera range. The ASA disagreed. Because the headline referred to "no advance payment", despite the top caption, the picture still misleadingly implied that the model featured was available on these terms. The complaint was upheld.
Why this matters:
In what to some might seem an unduly harsh decision, the ASA underlines a basic principle that is often applied. Where a headline claim is made, this must apply to any product pictured close by. If not, no qualifying words in smaller print or asterisks will save the day.