Who: The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and Shop Direct Home Shopping Ltd trading as Very, very.co.uk (Very)
Where: United Kingdom
When: 11 May 2022
Law stated as at: 23 May 2022
The ASA has ruled that a radio advert for online shopping provider Very breached the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (BCAP Code) because it “encouraged the use of credit to finance spending on expensive branded goods”, and was not prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.
The advert featured a mother speaking about buying branded trainers for her daughter, as she is “logo mad“, and would “rather go to school in her socks than in trainers that aren’t Adidas or Nike.” The ad informed listeners that “With Very Pay, you have a choice of ways to pay for this very big school moment,” and that they would be “able to spread the cost.”
Very argued that a mother purchasing shoes for her child’s return to school was necessary rather than discretionary spending, and that the reference to a choice of ways to pay concerned the Very Pay payment platform which comprised a number of payment options. They argued that the trainers were not expensive designer items, with some of the starting prices being as low as £9 and that the only reference to credit within the ad is when the mother stated that she was “able to spread the cost”. Radiocentre characterised the purchase in the ad as a ‘treat’ and an exception rather than ‘excessive spending’ or habitual behaviour.
Whilst an option to pay immediately existed, the ASA found that the ad’s claim that consumers could “spread the cost” of purchasing with Very was a clear reference to credit options, with both Very’s ‘Buy now pay later’ and ‘monthly’ payment options comprising forms of credit. The ASA considered the ad’s reference to a “really big year” and the mother’s desire for her daughter to “smash it” as further playing on the anxieties that parents might feel regarding their child fitting in at school. The ASA felt that the ad placed pressure on parents to purchase branded shoes/other expensive designer items, which was further intensified by the ad being shown at the beginning of the school year, an already expensive time for parents. The ASA felt this pressure was inappropriate as branded shoes are not a necessity in the same way that school shoes are more generally.
The ASA concluded the ad irresponsibly encouraged the use of credit to finance spending on expensive branded goods, and was in breach of the BCAP Code 1.2. The ad is not allowed to appear again in its current form.
Why this matters:
BCAP Code 1.2 provides that adverts must be prepared “with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society”. This ASA ruling further highlights that advertisers should carefully consider the way in which the relevant advert could be construed, particularly where the product or service involves the provision of credit or could be interpreted as playing on anxieties or pressures on particular groups in society, such as parents.