An excellent result in a blind challenge test amongst hundreds of retailers against competing products was spoilt by copy in a trade ad for ICI’s Dulux Trade paints.
Topic: Comparative advertising
Who: ICI Trade Paints
Where: The Advertising Standards Authority
When: June 2003
The ASA processed a complaint about a trade magazine advertisement for ICI's "Dulux Trade" paint products. The headline was "Yet another star performance by Dulux Trade!".
The ad featured a picture of a Dulux Trade can with a rosette attached to it, stating "Trade's first choice best buy test". The ad went on to state that "Dulux Trade have just retaken the Best Buy Test Product Challenge and been voted the best UK paint overall once again! The Best Buy Test is an independent trial undertaken by 400 decorators to establish which are the best products in the key categories…Dulux products are tested against two other top UK trade brands in blank cans…"
The challenge to the ad in front of the ASA was whether the claim "Best Buy Test" was based on a clear and fair comparison.
ICI said that the product challenge had been conducted by an independent research agency, commissioned by ICI. The agency randomly selected over 400 decorators to participate in the test. The test results supported the findings and the claims in that regard made in the ad. However, the ASA took the view that because ICI had actually commissioned the tests and had tested only two of their competitors' brands in each case, the comparison was not clear and fair. Although the ad itself stated that the Dulux product had been tested against only two competitors' products, the ASA felt that readers of the ad would have assumed from the rest of the copy that the test was conducted more extensively against competing brands, and by a completely independent body, not one commissioned by ICI.
Accordingly the complaint was upheld.
Why this matters:
This was clearly a very extensive test undertaken at not inconsiderable expense. In the complaint adjudication ICI was reported as stating that they had no plans to re-run the advertisement in question. However, one imagines they will certainly want to make further use of the test result. With more careful attention paid to the copy and the claims made, one imagines they will be able to do this in a way that is compliant with the CAP code. The methodology looks robust enough. However, the case underlines the care with which tests of this kind need to be conducted and reported.