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21Sep/110

Weird ASA Complaint: Pie and Mash JOKERS!

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) publishes a weekly list of its latest adjudications that provide handy fodder for national and regional newspapers, picking over the bones of whoever's had their hand slapped.

This week BT, Paddy Power and Heineken were all up in front of the bench (Paddy Power was the only one censured for its 'refund losing bets' advert) but there are always a few cases that refer to obviously dodge internet claims and the like.

What's more, the ASA frequently has to get involved in petty turf wars and it's these that particularly amuse me.

The following concerns the Pie'n'Mash Online website and their claim to be the 'cheapest Pie and Mash Company on the internet today' - with portions 'double, yes double!' the size of the 'other Jokers!' who produce 'BLAND PRODUCTS THROUGHOUT'. (As a wonderful bonus, the Pie'n'Mash website also incorporates The Jellied Eel Gazette although, bizarrely, its website also claims that 'burnt pies are a speciality'. Sold!)

This claim was, understandably contested by M Manze, another mash business - perhaps the most bizarre thing about this whole case is that you can apparently get pie and mashed potato (plus stewed eels) delivered to your door. What follows is pure comedy gold; like the High Court has been asked to arbitrate between two school children arguing over whose Dad is the hardest.

Ad
An ad on the home page of the Pie'n'Mash Online website, which was seen on 23 May 2011, stated “We are the cheapest Pie and Mash Company on the internet today; Not only the Cheapest but our home delivery meals are DOUBLE! YES DOUBLE the size of the other Jokers! Who don’t even know the original recipe, the true recipe doesn’t produce. BLAND PRODUCTS THROUGHOUT”.

Issue
M. Manze, who also sold pie and mash online, challenged whether:

1. the claim "our home delivery meals are DOUBLE! YES DOUBLE the size of the other Jokers!" implied that the advertisers portions were double the size of their competitors and whether this was misleading and could be substantiated;

2. the claim “... the other jokers! Who don’t even know the original recipe ...” implied that the advertisers had been in business and producing pies longer than their competitors and was misleading. M. Manze said the advertisers were a relatively new business unlike them and others in the industry who were well established;

3. the ad denigrated them and their products; and

4. the advertiser did not make clear their geographic address.

Response
Pie'n'Mash Online t/a Eelhouse telephoned to say that they believed their portions were double the size of their competitors and that nothing on the site could be considered denigratory because they did not name their competitors. They did not provide a written response to the complaint.

Assessment
1. Upheld

The ASA had not seen evidence to support the claim that the advertiser’s portions were double the size of their competitors. We therefore considered the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 (Comparisons).

2. Upheld

We noted that the advertiser referred to their competitors as “jokers” who “don’t even know the original recipe”. We considered readers were likely to infer from this that these competitors had less knowledge and experience of pie making than the advertiser and that they had been in business for less time. Because we understood that the complainant had been in business far longer than the advertiser, we concluded that the implied claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation) and 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons).

3. Upheld

We noted that no specific competitor was named in the ad, but we understood that there were very few businesses that sold pie and mash online and that the competitors were therefore readily identifiable.

We noted that the ad said Eelhouse’s competitors were unaware of “the original recipe” but we had not seen evidence to suggest that Eelhouse used a recipe that was recognised as “the original”, or that their recipe had been developed over a longer period than those used by their competitors. We noted that the ad also said their competitor’s recipes produced “BLAND PRODUCTS THROUGHOUT”, but no customer satisfaction results or other evidence was provided to support this claim. Because of this, and because the ad referred to competitors as “jokers”, we concluded that the ad had unfairly discredited and denigrated other businesses and their products.

On this point the ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising), 3.7 (Substantiation), 3.33 and 3.35 (Comparisons) and 3.42 (Denigration).

Result: Upheld

Read the full judgment at the ASA website