A ‘Crazy Frog’ ring tone download craze has taken the UK’s playgrounds by storm. But did the promoters take sufficient care to ensure downloaders knew they were going to be charged? We report on the ASA’s findings on the point.
Ensure your vocal and visuae your vocal and visual messages match!
Jamba! AG t/a Jamster
6 April 2005
The ASA received a number of complaints that Jamster's advertisements for its mobile phone ringtones were misleading. The complaints were based on a common theme that it was not made sufficiently clear in the advertisements that by sending a text to the number advertised, the public would be entering into a subscription service costing £3 a week rather than just receiving a single ringtone.
Jamster advertised its service through two advertisements appearing on television and one in the national press:
The visual graphics of the television advertisements listed available ringtones and the text "Jamster Poly Club" or "Jamster Mobile Club" appeared at the top of the screen. Both advertisements also contained rolling text at the bottom of the screen. One advertisement used rolling text that stated "Up to 6 polytones&logos (+music/news)/week£3" together with information on how to unsubscribe, applicable charges and telephone numbers while the accompanying voiceover stated "Wake up and get your favourite ringtone on your mobile now by texting A1, A2 or A3 to 88 888. For more information see jamster.co.uk". The second advertisement used the rolling text "Up to 5 monotones, polytones or realtones (+musicnews)/week £3" with the voiceover message "Go nuts with the Crazy Frog on your mobile now. Text 100 for the mono, 200 for the poly or 300 for the real crazy sound to 88 888".
The press advertisement also featured the Crazy Frog character and in the corner of the advertisement it was stated "from as little as 30p* in the Ringtoneking clubs! See below for details". This text was linked to small print at the bottom of the advertisement which amongst other information and terms provided that "…Club membership costs £3 per club weekly…..weekly subscription will be automatically renewed if not cancelled".
The ASA ruled that the complaints regarding both the press and television advertisements should be upheld. The advertiser asserted that offering wallpaper and ringtones on a subscription only basis was an established practise within the mobile sector but the ASA responded that whether the service available is a subscription service or a one-off product purchase should be made clear. Despite the television advertisements containing visual text that referred to a "Jamster Poly Club" or a "Jamster Mobile Club" and that a weekly fee would be charged, the voiceover messages encouraged viewers to order just a single ringtone rather than subscribing to an ongoing service. The ASA therefore considered the television advertisements to be in breach of Rules 5.1of the CAP (Broadcast) TV Advertising Standards Code as the onscreen text was not sufficient to correct the misleading impressions given by the voiceover messages.
So far as the press advertisement was concerned, the ASA noted that the small print referred to subscription and pricing but in the past it had received assurances from Jamster that it would make it clearer in its advertisements that a subscription service was being offered and it felt that this had not yet been complied with. The ASA therefore felt that the press advertisement was also unclear and misleading and therefore in breach of clauses 7.1 (Truthfulness), 15.1 (Prices) and 15.3 (Prices) of the CAP Code.
Why this matters:
This recent adjudication reminds advertisers that voice and visual advertising messages must be consistent. The advertiser in this case had tried to argue that a television advertisement should be considered as a whole and that the voiceover message should not take precedence over onscreen text. The ASA accepted that whilst the voiceovers of television advertisements did not take such precedence over other information presented in a visual form, there should not be any conflicting message presented by the advert as a whole and if the voiceover is in any way misleading then the text appearing on screen should be sufficient to correct the impressions given by voiceovers.
Advertisers must therefore be aware that their advertisements will be considered as a whole and that even if a certain practice is common within their sector they must ensure that the information presented in their advertisements is not in any way misleading with sufficient price information provided to all viewers. This is particularly so for the mobile sector where subscription services are being increasingly offered on the back of ringtone purchases and where such offers are often taken up by children who nowadays have unfettered access to mobile phones and are going to be a sector of the buying market that is particularly interested in such offers. Telecom companies are receiving increasing numbers of complaints from customers on the basis of the advertising of subscription services.