Who: Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), and Klarna Bank AB (Klarna)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 23 December 2020
Law stated as at: 20 January 2021
The ASA ruled that four of Klarna’s ads, which were social media posts made by four influencers, were irresponsible on the basis that the ads linked mood-boosting with the use of their deferred payment services (that is, services that allowed for payments for purchases to be made over an extended period). The complaints were brought by Stella Creasy MP and the ASA.
The ads contained claims that referred to:
- Improving moods:
o “@klarna.uk helping me get ready for the day ahead in lockdown and lifting my mood! … using products from @allbeautyhq…”
o “Over the last couple of weeks social distancing, I’ve discovered a love for FaceTiming … and making an effort in the morning – if nothing else, it makes me feel human and like ‘me’ again … Thank you @klarna.uk for the simple reminder that getting dressed up can be a total mood booster…”
o “I’ve been keeping a beauty/skincare routine thanks to @klarna.uk in lockdown to help lift my mood!”
- Klarna’s prize promotion:
o “Head over to @klarna.uk for a chance to win a £500 beauty bundle or check my stories and swipe up! #KlarnaIt”
o “Brighten up your lockdown days by heading over to their page, they’re giving away a £500 beauty bundle! #klarnait #klarnauk”.
- Spending on certain products: “… you can splurge on this… face mask via @spacenk – just one of Klarna’s beauty retailers… A great investment mask, made easier with @klarna.uk”
In response to the complaints, Klarna said (among other points) that:
- The ads were intended to highlight skincare routines and other self-care activities that could improve mental health during a difficult lockdown period. Therefore, the claims about mood boosting were linked to those activities (which did not involve Klarna or making purchases) rather than using Klarna’s financial products.
- The majority of the posts also referenced the promotion to win a beauty bundle, which required no purchase to enter. Klarna had otherwise removed all commercial calls to action.
The ASA nonetheless concluded that in the context of the national lockdown, these ads were irresponsible as they encouraged consumers to use credit in order to lift their moods. In particular, the ruling said:
- While purchasing certain products might help boost moods, the ads nonetheless promoted the use of Klarna’s services and linked the mood-lifting aspects with these services – particularly during a period where consumers may be experiencing financial and mental health concerns. The use of the hashtag #KlarnaIt also contributed to this impression.
- One of the ads referred using the service to “splurge” on a product. The ad linked the “splurge” on a relatively expensive beauty product to Klarna’s deferred payment services as well as the notion of lifting of one’s mood.
- While a prize promotion was mentioned in the ad, it wasn’t the primary purpose of the posts, and therefore did not materially change the focus of the ads from Klarna’s services to the promotion.
Klarna released a comment on ASA’s ruling shortly afterwards, stating that while they were attempting to “recognise the mood of many of our consumers” during the lockdown, they had “missed the mark”. Klarna also committed to setting up an “influencer thought leader council”, which is intended to boost dialogue with the ASA and provide better guidance to brands.
Why this matters:
This ruling has highlighted that the ASA is likely to take complaints about responsibility in the context of the national lockdown seriously. In addition, as many consumers may be facing financial and mental health concerns, advertisers (particularly in the financial products and health space) will need to take extra care to consider whether their ads are responsible and are not seen to be taking advantage of the circumstances.