Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA)
The Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice (BCAP)
Where: United Kingdom
When: November 2018
Law stated as at: 31 January 2019
BCAP has published revised guidance on the use of super-imposed text (or supers) in TV adverts. Super-imposed text contains the terms and conditions that viewers usually see at the bottom of a TV advert, also known as “small print”. This guidance followed on from a Call for Evidence made by the Advertising Standards Authority in June 2018, which sought to clarify certain issues around super-imposed tests, such as: (1) how it is used by consumers; (2) whether it is noticed; and (3) whether consumers found it legible.
The research produced by the Call for Evidence indicated that the majority of respondents found it difficult to read and understand super-imposed text. The two main reasons given for lack of understanding by consumers were: (1) the use of text with poor background contrast and; (2) the use of lettering that appeared stretched or elongated.
To address these concerns, BCAP has set out new guidance which TV advertisers will be expected to follow. The guidance includes the following:
- super-imposed text should be of sufficient size to be legible to viewers;
- sufficient emphasis must be given to significant qualifying information;
- there should be an adequate contrast between any on-screen text and its background;
- fonts should be plain and should not be stretched or elongated;
- the visible space between words should be greater than the visible space between letters;
- in general, text should be centred and at the bottom of the screen;
- viewers should be allowed sufficient time to read on-screen text; and
- where supers contain numbers, viewers should not be expected to make any additional calculations.
In particular, ASA emphasised Rule 3.11 of the BCAP Code in its guidance, which requires that “qualifications must be presented clearly”.
The guidance applies to adverts appearing in Ofcom-licensed TV services but does not apply to interactive text services, videotext services or other TV like services such as video-on-demand.
The new guidance came into effect on 1 March 2019 but ASA will initially resolve cases informally by issuing advice to advertisers on how to improve any problematic small print. Cases will be considered formally from 1 September 2019.
Why this matters:
The guidance has re-iterated ASA’s commitment to preventing misleading advertising and all advertisers creating adverts for Ofcom-licensed TV services will be expected to remove any problematic small print before the formal deadline of 1 September 2019. Advertisers will have to think carefully about how to include any important information in their adverts in order to comply with this guidance and the industry may well see a reduction in reliance on the use of super-imposed text.