Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Roofoods Ltd trading as ‘Deliveroo’ (Roofoods)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 11 September 2019
Law stated as at: 11 October 2019
The ASA received complaints that a Deliveroo TV ad was misleading. The ad featured a voice-stating: “Order what you want; where you want; when you want it“, while showing an astronaut receiving a sushi delivery through his spaceship’s airlock. The ad’s accompanying on-screen text stated “Some restrictions apply, obviously…”.
Roofoods argued that as the “Some restrictions apply…” text appeared at the point where the voice-over stated “wherever you want“, it was made clear that Deliveroo would be unable to deliver to some locations and noted that potential customers could check the app to see whether their area was covered without incurring any costs. Roofoods maintained that this interpretation was reinforced by the depictions of deliveries in situations which were clearly not representative of real life (such as to a driver mid-car chase and to a person who had just tunnelled out of prison). Clearcast had advised Roofoods on use of the “Some restrictions apply…” text and considered that the ad highlighted Deliveroo’s flexible delivery systems as opposed to the geographical coverage of their services.
The ASA disagreed, upholding the complaint on the basis that the text did not make the nature of the restrictions clear. It ruled that viewers were likely to interpret the voice-over’s claim as referring to the choice of food, geographical availability and choice of delivery timing. As no other explanation was given, viewers were likely to expect availability throughout the UK. The fantastical nature of the delivery scenes in the ad combined with the use of the word “obvious” in fact reinforced this interpretation of the qualification: clearly, deliveries could not be made to spacecraft, rather than to certain locations in the UK.
The ad was held to breach BCAP Code rules 3.1 (Misleading Advertising) and 3.10 (Qualification). The “Some restrictions apply…” qualification text used was not considered sufficient to make viewers aware that they would need to check for availability in their area and as such the ad was likely to mislead.
Why this matters:
The threshold for an ad to fall foul of BCAP Code rule 3.1 is lower than most might expect: an ad need only to be “likely” to materially mislead viewers to be in breach of this rule. Here the ad’s qualification “Some restrictions apply, obviously…”, while fun and in-keeping with the feel of the ad, was actually deemed to increase the likelihood of viewers being misled. The ASA highlighted the relevance of the effect the ad’s fantastical context had on viewer’s interpretation of what may otherwise have been an acceptable statement.
The ruling reminds brands to carefully consider the clarity of the qualifying text used in advertising and how qualifying text should always be considered in the context of the placement and content of the ad.