Currys PC World has been slammed by the ad watchdog for its “Gifts that make you go oooh” Christmas TV ad, which, it has ruled, encouraged the use of credit to finance excessive spending on presents at a time when many people were struggling financially.
The ad, which ran in December, began with a woman holding a worn-looking stuffed elephant and comparing it to a website listing for a similar stuffed elephant, followed by another woman saying “For your mum!”, as she showed a board game to a man who responded with an unenthusiastic smile.
Another man was then shown typing at a computer, looking quizzically at listings for wireless headphones. A voiceover stated, “Shouldn’t Christmas gifting be a bit less …” as the man at the computer gave an exasperated groan.
A woman was then shown on a video call to a Currys PC employee who said, “So that is all your family’s gifts, then. You can buy now and pay later if you’d like.” The voiceover continued, “… and a bit more …” as a number of people were shown exclaiming “oooh” excitedly as they opened presents such as laptops, games consoles and a large OLED TV.
The voiceover concluded: “Give everyone you love a little ‘oooh’ this Christmas. Buy now, pay nothing for six months. At Currys PC World”, as large on-screen text stated “Pay nothing for 6 months. 24.9% APR representative (variable).”
On-screen text shown during the ad included “Pay nothing for 6 months. Pay full balance by month 6 to avoid any interest. 24.9% APR representative (variable). 18+ £99+. Ts & Cs apply. DSG Retail Limited is a credit broker, credit is provided by Creation Consumer Finance Ltd. Credit subject to status”.
However, far from giving viewers “a little oooh”, five people were moved to complain to the Advertising Standards Authority, insisting the ad was irresponsible, especially during the Covid pandemic when so many people were suffering financially.
In response to the ASA investigation, Currys PC World said it believed consumers were likely to understand that the ad was promoting its finance package, which was an option to pay for purchases within six months with no interest payable.
It argued that the ad was likely to be interpreted as referring to the benefits of the buy now pay later market, rather than encouraging consumers in financial difficulty to make excessive purchases through credit without careful consideration.
They highlighted that the ad showed a customer speaking to one of its “shop live” agents who, through a one-on-one video call, could help customers choose the right products for them. They said it was only at the end of the call, after the consumer had selected products to purchase, that the shop live colleague in the ad suggested using pay later credit as an option, stating “if you’d like”.
The retailer also believed the reference of “Give everyone you love a little ‘oooh’ this Christmas. Buy now, pay nothing for six months” was unlikely to be seen as encouraging excessive spending for those financially struggling, especially given that it related to a specific period when customers might be looking for Christmas gifts and considering all options, including spreading the costs.
However, the ASA was not unimpressed with this defence, ruling that the sequence of events in the ad would lead viewers to understand that the dissatisfied individuals in the first part of the ad had not used or considered a ‘pay later’ method to buy or search for those items, but that the gifts shown in the second part of the ad had been purchased using the ‘pay later’ credit option with Currys PC World.
And while the watchdog acknowledged that each scenario in the ad only featured one gift being purchased or received by any individual or household, it considered that the ad suggested the initial Christmas gift choices purchased without ‘pay later’ credit in the first part of the ad were unsatisfactory, because the gift-givers expressed disappointment or frustration.
In contrast, the products gifted in the second part of the ad were generally more expensive and luxurious than those which featured in the first part, and received very positive reactions.
Its ruling stated: “We considered the ad’s messaging explicitly connected the use of a form of credit with deferred payment to buying more expensive gifts, and making people’s loved ones happy with their presents at Christmas as a result.
“Particularly in the context of the global pandemic and the associated financial difficulties for many people, we concluded the ad irresponsibly encouraged the use of credit to finance excessive spending on Christmas gifts, and was in breach of the code.
Banning the ad from appearing again, the ASA warned Currys PC World to ensure that future ads did not irresponsibly encourage excessive spending through the use of credit.
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