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Misleading adverts: Rooney tweets and getting bitter with Apple

Posted on Jun 24, 2012 by Andy Harris  | 0 Comments

You will no doubt be familiar with Apple’s latest advert for new iPhone 4s, which focuses on its Siri voice activated assistant. Well it appears some bitter Apple consumers (pun apology) have raised class actions in the US alleging false and misleading advertising on the basis that Siri is only in beta (test) stage and does not always work in the rather marvellously efficient manner suggested in the advert. Apple not surprisingly have denied any wrongdoing and say they made it clear, both at press conferences announcing the product and via its website, that this particular piece of technology was beta. 

In the UK advertisements require to comply with the CPRs (the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations). Amongst other things, these prohibit adverts which deceive consumers and encourage them to make a purchase they otherwise would not.  Advertising in the UK also has to comply with the CAP Code operated by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA). 

One of the basic rules of the CAP Code is that marketing communications must be “obviously identifiable” as marketing communications. This was the key issue in the ASA adjudication last week regarding Wayne Rooney’s use of his personal Twitter account to promote Nike. Both Rooney and fellow England international Jack Wilshere posted comments agreed in collaboration with Nike, and which included the Make it Count slogan and a link to a Nike promotional video. 

ASA ruled that the tweets were not “obviously identifiable” as marketing communications. Nike had argued that  the inclusion of the Nike URL and having the Make it Count strap-line in the hashtag would make it sufficiently clear that these tweets were marketing communications. However the ASA felt that this would not be obvious to all readers of the tweet.  So unlike his Man Utd and (erstwhile) England colleague, Rio Ferdinand (whose use of Twitter to promote Snickers bars was deemed by the ASA not to breach the CAP Code earlier this year) Rooney’s use was held to be in breach. 

In Ferdinand’s case, his Twitter marketing involved the sending of four tweets which were inconsistent with his public image (e.g. extolling the joys of knitting) before a fifth tweet made it clear he was back to his old self thanks to a Snickers bar.  Although the ASA rejected Mars argument that only the fifth tweet was a marketing communication, they felt that in the circumstances it was acceptable for the first four tweets not to be labelled as marketing communications when the fifth tweet so clearly was.

Rooney’s decision probably sets out clearer parameters on acceptable use of Twitter as a marketing tool, although given the social media juggernaut is showing no signs of slowing it probably won’t be long before the ASA is asked to comment again on its use for advertising purposes. There are certainly enough Man Utd players around to cover a few more adjudications...

Andy Harris

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