New Decisions: Treadmill TV ad played on fear of COVID-19, identification of advertisers in advocacy advertisements, and more

The following decisions have been released to the ASA website:

Treadmill TV advert played on fear of COVID-19

The Brand Developers television advertisement for the iTread treadmill said “So, forget about rainy days or busy schedules, or going out to that germ-filled gym, breathing other people’s air and using equipment that’s covered in sweat and bacteria – you never know what you’ll catch.” The voiceover was accompanied by different images, including of sweat and bacteria on the handle grip of a gym treadmill, a person spraying gym equipment in a hazmat suit and mask, an enlargement of corona virus cells and someone having their temperature taken by a person wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

Three Complainants were concerned the advertisement was inaccurate and unfair to gym owners, in the context of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

The Complaints Board said the advertisement was misleading as it made unsubstantiated claims regarding the risk of catching COVID-19. The Board said the advertisement implies there is a significant risk of catching COVID-19 at the gym, and this has not been substantiated. The Board agreed the advertisement caused fear and distress without justification. The Complaints Board said the advertisement is a comparative advertisement that denigrated competitors.

The Complaints Board considered changes to the advertisement made by the Advertiser following the complaints but they were insufficient to settle the complaint. The Complaints Board ruled the complaint Upheld and the advertisement to be removed.

Auckland Ratepayers Alliance billboard breached Code

The Auckland Ratepayers Alliance billboard advertisement was an advocacy message regarding proposed rate increases in the Auckland region. The advertisement included the text “Have your say on proposed hike to rates” followed by “Submit now at”. The advertisement showed the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance logo alongside the Auckland City Council logo.

The Complainant, Auckland Council, was concerned the use of the Council’s logo on the advertisement was misleading by implying it endorsed the advertisement.

The Advertiser said the Council’s request for public feedback from ratepayers encouraged interest groups to engage with the submissions campaign and the advertisement was simply highlighting another submission portal.

The Complaints Board said that while the billboard was an advocacy advertisement, the Advertiser had not been adequately identified in the advertisement as the Auckland Ratepayers Alliance logo and the Auckland Council logo were featured side by side with equal prominence. The Complaints Board said the advertisement was misleading and could confuse consumers about who was promoting the advertisement and could imply Auckland Council had endorsed it.

The Complaints Board ruled the complaint Upheld and the advertisement to be removed and not used again in its current form.