When the Automobile Association ran similar marketing material in leaflet and poster form, did it think through the implications for clarifying footnotes?
Who: The Advertising Standards Authority and the Automobile Association
When: June 2002
Where: The UK
A poster promoting "AABuyacar" was headlined "Would you buy a used car from this man?" The ad went on "Now you can, AABuyacar…." and also included a footnote that stated "Please note that the AA will act as an appointed intermediary for the purchase of your vehicle from our reputable supplier. Your contract for the purchase of the vehicle will be with the supplier." The complaint was that the ad misleadingly implied customers could buy a car direct from the AA and that the footnote on the poster was illegible at normal viewing distance. Both complaints were upheld. The AA had defended the first complaint on the basis that the footnote qualified the headline, but the ASA was concerned that the small print did not just clarify but rather contradicted the implication of the headline. As far as the legibility of the footnote on the poster was concerned, the ASA reminded the advertiser that there were guidelines on this aspect contained in the Committee of Advertising Practice Help Note about "claims that require qualification". In the light of this, the footnote in the poster was simply too small and unlikely to be seen by a person with normal vision viewing the ad for a reasonable length of time and at a reasonable distance.
Why this matters:
This is just another example of footnotes that do not save a fundamentally misleading headline if all they do is contradict it. So far as the size of the footnote is concerned, advertisers should note that different rules apply for posters and check out the CAP Help Note.