ASA online copywriting adjudication

Misleading ad text in ASA sights

A ruling from the UK advertising regulator has underlined the importance of ensuring online copy does not mislead customers.

Yesterday, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) published its adjudication on a pay-per-click (PPC) ad from paternity testing provider Genetrack Biolabs. The ad in question described Genetrack Biolabs as the 'UK's trusted paternity lab' despite the fact that the company had no UK presence and conducted all its tests in Canada. Consequently, the text was deemed to breach the Committee of Advertising Practice Code on two counts of misleading advertising.

Website copy falls foul of regulator

At the same time, commercial copywriting found on Genetrack Biolabs' website was put under the microscope. The text promised both 'results in 3 to 5 working days' and 'results in 1 to 2 working days', but upon investigation it was discovered that these timeframes only applied from the date that samples were received by the lab in Canada. As a result, the ASA found that the copywriting had breached two counts of the code relating to misleading advertising, as well as one of substantiation and one of exaggeration.

To avoid further confusion, the ASA demanded that the PPC ad and the copywriting claims on the website should not be run again. And it ordered Genetrack Biolabs to clarify that response times were measured from the date that samples arrived at the lab.

Mark Baker, online marketing manager at theEword, commented: "This adjudication should serve as a warning to all online marketers that it's vital to check your ad text and promotional copy before putting it live. By removing misleading ads, the ASA is helping to ensure that online users are better able to trust what they read online."

The ASA is an independent advertising complaints regulator that covers all types of ads, including those in magazines, TV commercials, posters and direct mail. In March 2011, its online remit was greatly expanded to cover commercial copywriting on advertisers' websites, third-party sites and even social media.

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