Sunday, 2 August 2009

Tesco - 'Not Real' Baskets TV Ad 'Misleading'

Tesco's 'Real Baskets' TV and Newspaper Ad campaign.
The Advertising Standards Authority rules it did mislead shoppers.

Since successfully complaining to M&S about their misleading 'Save 10%' wine discount, I'm reminded about another food retailer's advertising.

I've highlighted Tesco's nonsense price comparison ads before. They are so desperate to claim they are the cheapest supermarket they will use almost any daft data to try and prove it. In their 'Britain's Biggest Discounter' campaign (a claim also criticised as 'ambiguous' by the ASA) they compared £100 worth of weekly shopping against Asda prices. £10 of the comparison was spent on hair dye. Please, how stupid do Tesco think we are!

Anyway it didn't stop Tesco dreaming up the 'Real Baskets' ad. You might think, looking at the reproduction above, that 1,124,000 real baskets were cheaper at Tesco than the same 705,000 baskets at Asda. In fact, in the tiny print you can't easily read, it says they actually only counted a sample of baskets and then projected the rest. There are plenty of other opaque technical exclusions too (read them from Tesco here)

This week the Advertising Standards Authority ruled the ads were misleading. They said if Tesco says 'Real Baskets' and shows a huge number piled up that's what people will expect they counted, not the tiny number hidden in the text underneath. The ASA also said the exclusion of a number of items in the baskets made it impossible for shoppers to calculate whether it was really cheaper to shop at Tesco as claimed.

Looking at some online comments (the Daily Mail ran the report this week) shoppers said they weren't fooled by Tesco's nonsense. But can this really be true? Would Tesco spend hundreds of thousands of pounds trying to create an impression no one would believe? Tesco must hope their campaigns do build belief - even if only among their own customers, who might be tempted to go and find out if Asda really is cheaper.

TV advertisers do have to jump considerable approval (Clearcast clearance) and legal hurdles (defamation etc) before they can run a TV ad. But if they do manage to get a nonsense ad like Tesco's on the air there is no punishment when it is later ruled misleading. By then the campaign is over and the message is out there.

Perhaps advertisers should be fined a proportion of their ad spend when their ads are ruled misleading, instead of simply banned from re-running them?

No comments: