A Swiss Village Where You Can’t Make Cheese?
The hotel advert I saw described the village as being ‘famous for its healthy air that kills all bacteria.’
That’s bad news for the local dairies which need bacteria to make cheese and yoghurt.
It’s also a huge claim that could be hard to prove.
Claims made in advertising and marketing must comply with advertising standards and the UK Code of Practice doesn’t allow claims without supporting evidence. I found myself wondering how this advert could have passed, so I turned to the Advertising Standards Authority website to find out some more. It turned out to be more complex and intriguing than I thought so I thought I’d share my investigations and conclusions.
Let’s go through the key questions:
- Is it a product-related claim?
The claim is about the village. If they were promoting the village, the claim would need evidence. But the subject of the advertisement is the hotel.
2. How believable is the claim?
The CAP Code includes a clause (3.2) which states that “obvious exaggerations (“puffery”) and claims that the average consumer who sees the marketing communication is unlikely to take literally are allowed provided they do not materially mislead.”
I’d like to believe that nobody could take the claim literally, although I confess to some doubts.
3. Which country’s guidance is relevant? This is a Swiss hotel advertising in an American publication which is also distributed in the UK?
According to the UK Advertising Standards Authority website, the standards you need to follow are the ones in the country whose consumers are being targeted. And action can only be taken about a misleading claim if the advertisement in question indicates that it is targeted to those consumers. Such indications in the UK could be:
- A UK contact number or UK website
- Prices quoted in sterling
- Publication distribution primarily in the UK
In this case, although they would certainly welcome visitors from the UK, there was nothing within the advert that suggested they were being specifically targeted. (Contact details were Swiss, no prices were quoted in any currency, and the magazine distributed in 10+ countries.
I think we can agree that, one way or another, that the advert is not going to run into trouble in the UK:
- The claims aren’t directly about the product.
- It sounds like an (hopefully) obvious exaggeration.
- There is no sign that it specifically targets the UK audience.
As for what I’ve learned…
- The Code of Practice for Advertising Standards is pretty interesting reading, as well as being worth knowing.
- If you’re a UK based company marketing your product or service to an overseas audience, you are strongly advised to read up the guidance in that country or use a good copywriter who will do it for you. Being compliant in the UK won’t help you if your target market lives somewhere else.
- And, if all else fails, you can always make your claims so ludicrous that they pass!