DLG slammed for deceptive emails

DLG has been blasted by the ad watchdog after it ran three email campaigns, dressed up as if they were sent from top retail chains offering money-off vouchers, when in fact they were simply data-gathering surveys.
The company, which went from a £72.5m valuation in October 2007 to near collapse within 18 months, also trades as Surveys.co.uk.
It embarked on three separate email campaigns, all of which used branding from Sainsbury’s, M&S and Argos – complete with spelling errors as well as straplines from their advertising activity – in an effort to get consumers to fill out the online lifestyles survey.
All three used the subject line either “Marks and Spencers [sic]… Sainsbury [sic]… or Argos vouchers up for grabs”.
In the ‘from’ field, all claimed to be from the individual retailer. And, once opened, the emails featured lines such as “M&S. This isn’t just an ordinary email; this is a chance to win £1,000 in vouchers to spend at M&S” and “Would you like to try something new at Sainsbury’s? Here is your chance with £1,000 worth of gift vouchers up for grabs”.
The campaign triggered a complaint about misleading marketing as well as one that they breached the ad code because they did not show who they were actually from. This in turn sparked an investigation by the Advertising Standards Authority.
In its defence, DLG said the emails had included small print which stated that the offer was “in no way associated with [M&S/Sainsbury’s/Argos] and its partners”. It also blamed an affiliate company, which had removed several elements from the email created for the ads, including the website address and part of the disclaimer at the foot of the email.
Banning the emails, the ASA ruled that they did not include any information that surveys.co.uk was the marketer and that surveys.co.uk should have been made clear in either the ‘subject’ or ‘from’ fields, as well as in the main body of the emails.
And because the overall impression of the ads was that the £5 gift cards/vouchers were for the companies named in the ads, the small print contradicted rather than clarified the claims.
The ASA ruled the ads must not appear again in their current form.
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