In the first case of its kind, the self-regulatory body had to deal with a fake cancel button on a banner ad. Fun fake interactivity or misleading advertising?
Who: 888 Casino and the Advertising Standards Authority (“ASA”)
When: January 2002
What Happened: The Interactive Advertising Bureau, amongst others, were heard to complain loudly over an ASA “complaint upheld” finding in respect of a banner advertisement appearing on BT’s website. The advertiser was Antigua-based “888 Casino”. When the banner ad appeared, a dialogue box stated “Downloading” and featured flashing lights, suggesting downloading was in progress. What also appeared prominently was a “Cancel” button which temptingly suggested that by clicking on it the down-loading process could be stopped. When punters did click on the “Cancel” button, however, they were taken through to the advertiser’s site.
In response to a complaint that this was misleading, 888 Casino argued that many other advertisers used similar “fake iconography” tactics in order to grab the attention of site visitors and that internet users were well used to being exposed to such new forms of advertising. The ASA, however, was not persuaded. Regardless of their levels of sophistication, it was not felt that web users were likely to understand that by pressing “cancel” they would in fact be transporting themselves to the advertiser’s website. It was noted that 888 Casino had discontinued this method of grabbing punters’ attention and they were told not to use a similar approach in future.
Why This Matters:
One can understand the IAB’s protest at any unnecessary constraints on what banner ad creatives can do with the challenged medium. In this particular case, however, it is difficult, to criticise the ASA’s fundamental approach, which is that regardless of whether this is a common tool used by advertisers on-line, “fake creativity” is not going to be acceptable if it is fundamentally misleading.