Asos: 20% off everything is not really ‘off everything’

asos1Online fashion giant Asos may have been one of the Covid-19 retail winners but it appears to be bottom of the pile when it comes to following advertising regulations after being found guilty of running a misleading email marketing push.

The company, which posted a 23% jump in revenues in the past quarter, has more than 13 million active customers and witnesses over 3.2 million visits daily to its site; it is also a major user of email marketing techniques to keep those fashionistas clicking.

One campaign, which ran in July last year, stated “20% off everything + free delivery*” in the subject line. Text in the email stated: “11am-1pm today 20% off everything + free next-day delivery. Get brands like adidas, Calvin Klein and Fred Perry for payday weekend. Use Code: Doubletreat”. The asterisks linked to text further down which stated “Selected marked products excluded from promo”.

But one customer, who noted there were exclusions to the offer, challenged the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate whether the claim “20% off everything” was misleading.

In its defence, Asos claimed the email clearly signposted that a “small number of lines” were excluded and in practice those exclusions made up 0.9% or less of their product lines. This amounted to 1,100 items which comprised of footwear (mostly branded trainers), sports performance and face and body products.

The retailer did agree that the number of exclusions in that case could be seen as significant, but considered that excluding 0.9% or less, as it had done, was not significant and would not mislead the average consumer.

The ASA, however, was having none of it. In its ruling, the watchdog said: “[We] considered that the claim “20% off everything” in the subject line and body text of the email would be understood by consumers to mean that all products on would be reduced by 20%.

“We noted that consumers would make a decision to open and engage further with the email based on their understanding of the claim as it appeared in the subject line, and considered that understanding would be reinforced by the repetition of the claim at the top of the email.”

While the regulator did acknowledge the presence of an asterisk beside the claim in both the subject line and body of the email, and text at the bottom of the email footer which included “Selected marked products excluded from promo” it considered that it was not sufficient to counter the overriding impression that all products would be discounted by 20%.

Banning the email from running again in that form, and the ASA also warned Asos about its future conduct.

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