Who: Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”), Whitechapel Centre
When: 21 June 2017
Law stated as at: 31 July 2017
Whitechapel Centre in Liverpool stated on their website “NO SECOND NIGHT OUT ON THE STREETS. TELL US ABOUT A ROUGH SLEEPER.” The ad also featured a telephone number and encouraged the public to call the Whitechapel Centre if they were worried or concerned about someone sleeping rough. It contained the statement, “By providing us with information about someone you think might be sleeping rough you will be helping us ensure that no one ever needs to sleep a second night on the street” and “TELL US ABOUT A ROUGH SLEEPER … AND WE WILL DO THE REST.”
The ASA received a complaint stating that the ad misleadingly implied that the Whitechapel Centre actually provided housing to those sleeping rough. The complainant understood that the charity provided a more general service that homeless people could use.
The ASA received evidence from both the Whitechapel Centre and Liverpool City Council stating that the claim “No Second Night Out” was describing a standard, rather than a service. They cited evidence that the charity provided numerous services to move the homeless away from the streets, including an outreach team, accommodation services and emergency shelter.
The aim of the ad was therefore to encourage the general public within Liverpool to take responsibility for rough sleepers and publicise the outreach service offered by the charity.
The ASA did not uphold the complaint and stated that the ad was a call to action, rather than a factual statement. The aim of the ad was to encourage the public to engage in the issue and report people sleeping on the streets to enable the charity to help them to get off the street. The ASA agreed that the statement was a description of a standard, rather than a service, and was therefore not misleading. The intent was to publicise that the charity was able to provide various forms of assistance to the homeless to help ensure that they did not have to sleep rough for another night.
Why this matters:
This ad illustrates the wider issue of aspirational claims in marketing and the potential difficulties in ensuring that they are not viewed as a factual statement, which could then be interpreted as misleading.
The ASA appears to take a more relaxed approach to such claims when they are made by charity and third sector organisations. For example, in July the ASA ruled that that Children With Cancer’s claim “fighting the UK’s biggest child killer” was part of a general claim that cancer was the leading cause of death in children compared to other singular diseases. The ASA interpreted the claim in the context of the charity’s purpose, work and reputation and therefore found that it was not misleading.
This suggests that marketers have more scope to introduce such aspirational claims in charity campaigns but care should still be taken to ensure that they are not interpreted as potentially misleading factual statements.