Any agency planning a new campaign for their credit card client beware: make sure you show consumers using the card for “sensible” purchases or risk being humiliated by the ad industry regulator.
That is the clear message to emerge from a new ruling against Sainsbury’s Bank and its agency Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, which coincidentally has since lost the account.
The ad, which was seen on TV in June, featured a couple talking about renovating their house and how a credit card had helped with this. They said: “Being our first renovation, we kind of went in head-first really. I just started knocking things down, didn’t I? Yeah, you got a bit over-excited. We definitely bit off more than we could chew. Washing up in the bath, we cook on a camp stove and we sleep in a campervan. Getting a credit card, we’ve been able to pay along our terms and use the flexibility that that gives us. If we can get through that, we can get through anything.”
As they spoke, the shots of the couple sitting on a sofa were interspersed with brief clips that illustrated what they were saying. These included cartoon bulls stampeding, a building being demolished, a dog chewing a large bone, a man putting up a tent, a slinky toy coming down some stairs, and two people being shot out of a cannon.
At the end of the ad, the Sainsbury’s logo appeared on screen and a voice-over stated “It’s never just money, it’s freedom. Credit cards from Sainsbury’s Bank”.
But one viewer took exception to the ad and complained to the Advertising Standards Authority, suggesting it was irresponsible because the ad suggested the best way to finance property renovation was with a credit card.
In response, Sainsbury’s insisted that the couple did not use a credit card to pay for their whole renovation, and it did not believe this was implied. It added that the product advertised offered 27 months interest free credit, which made it suitable for paying for parts of a home renovation.
But the watchdog was having none of it and pointed out that phrases such as “We kind of went in head-first really”, “You got a bit over-excited”, “I just started knocking things down” implied the couple had not fully considered the consequences of carrying out the work.
It added that the endline reinforced the impression that the card could be used to fix problems that arose during a non-essential project, and failed to emphasise the potential risks of using credit to resolve such issues.
Banning the ad for trivialising the process of taking out credit, the ASA warned Sainsbury’s Bank to ensure that its future advertising must not present consumer credit products in a socially irresponsible way.
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