Barclays Bank’s attempt to steal a march on its rivals in the fight against online fraud and cybercrime have been scuppered after the ad watchdog ruled that its latest TV ad dished out misleading advice.
The ad, devised by Bartle Bogle Hegarty as part of Barclays’ £10m Digital Safety initiative, featured ‘Supercon’ , a toy which has a jet-pack and disc-cannon and priced at £1.99.
Supercon suddenly starts speaking and says: “You know what, I can’t do this. It’s all rubbish. It’s a scam. If you order me, you get nothing. Right, before you pay, look for a padlock and always check the seller’s genuine. You don’t want to get scammed by a fake site …”
At the time the ad was launched, in the run-up to Christmas, Barclays UK marketing director Claire Hilton, said: “We want to help the UK to beat the fraudsters this Christmas by reminding everyone to look out for ways to keep themselves safe, such as the padlock symbol on retailers’ payment pages, plus checking the seller is genuine.”
However, 15 consumers complained to the Advertising Standards Authority and challenged whether the ad misleadingly implied that website URLs with green padlocks were guaranteed to be safe.
In response, Barclays said it believed the ad provided two pieces of advice to help consumers avoid becoming victims of online shopping or payment fraud, namely, “before you pay look for a padlock” and “always check the seller’s genuine”.
It insisted that “before you pay look for a padlock” was advice given by private sector businesses and public authorities, including Financial Fraud Action UK, the Information Commissioner’s Office, Get Safe Online, Action Fraud and Norton Symantech.
The company also believed the ad made clear that additional steps were necessary, and that viewers would understand that the website padlock was not the only necessary step for an online shopper to check in order to be safe. It claimed the ad did not make any safety guarantees.
However, the ASA considered that consumers were generally unlikely to have a detailed understanding of the website padlock symbol and the general steps required to ensure a website was safe. It considered viewers would understand the claim “Right, before you pay, look for a padlock and always check the seller’s genuine. You don’t want to get scammed by a fake site” to mean that if they saw a padlock in the address bar of their browser they would be protected from online shopping scams or payment fraud.
The ASA noted that the character also stated “always check the seller’s genuine”, but due to the emphasis that the ad placed visually on the padlock, we considered that the overriding impression of the ad was nevertheless that the padlock guaranteed that a website was safe.
Because the ad suggested that a padlock guaranteed that a website was safe when a padlock in an address bar did not protect from online shopping scams or payment fraud, the ASA concluded the ad breached BCAP Code rule 3.1 (Misleading Advertising).
The ASA ruled that the ad must not appear again and told Barclays Bank to ensure that it made clear that the website padlock security measure did not guarantee safety from online shopping or payment fraud.
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