Google UK has been spanked by the ad watchdog over two TV ads which used the same format as the Channel 4 comedic game show Taskmaster but were simply too similar, and too reminiscent of editorial content.
The Advertising Standards Authority investigation was sparked by complaints about three Google TV ads that were seen on C4 during the Taskmaster ad break.
The first, which had the word “#ad” superimposed on the bottom right of the screen for the whole duration, featured regular Taskmaster host Alex Horne, and two celebrities, Al Murray and Desiree Burch, who were given a task to complete in a similar style to the programme.
The second ad was an edited, 30-second version with some content similar to the first, while the third was also 30 seconds long and related to a Taskmaster task. These also features the Google logo briefly at the start, followed by the Taskmaster logo and the word “#ad” appeared on the bottom right of the screen for about three seconds before it disappeared.
Two complainants challenged whether the ads were obviously distinguishable from the Taskmaster television programme.
In response, Google UK said the first ad was “in the style” of the Taskmaster show, adding that it had therefore taken “extra care” to ensure it followed the rules. The ASA concluded that the ad would quickly be recognised as an ad and that it did not breach the rules.
For the other two ads, Google said displaying the text “#ad” for the opening three seconds actually exceeded the recommended minimum of 2.2 seconds in the BCAP guidance. It also highlighted the ads opened with the Google logo displayed in the front and centre of the screen and closed with an end card pointing viewers to Google’s UK YouTube channel and another appearance of the Google logo.
But the ASA was unimpressed, countering that the ads “remained reminiscent” of the programme Taskmaster and stated that care should be taken to ensure viewers were not confused between the two.
The watchdog concluded: “Although we recognised that #ad was displayed on-screen for the opening three seconds of the ads, we considered that, in the absence of that on-screen text for the full duration of the ads, the Google logo and link to the YouTube page were insufficient to enable viewers to recognise that they were not viewing editorial programme content.
“We therefore concluded that the were not obviously distinguishable from the editorial programme content and breached the Code on that basis.”
Banning the ads from appearing again in their current form, the ASA warned Google UK to ensure that future ads were obviously distinguishable from editorial content.
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