Black to the Future
Black Friday 2021 is just a month away: how can businesses steer clear of any advertising mishaps this year? James Corlett, Partner at Beyond Corporate, offers some advice.
What is Black Friday all about?
Black Friday, as many people will be aware, is an import from our friends across the pond. It landed here a few years ago and although the nation hasn’t bought into it to the same extent as our North American cousins, there are still enough fist fights over electrical appliances to mean it’s a busy time of year for retailers and direct-to-consumer brands.
Why do I need to be worried about advertising it?
Other than avoiding a black eye by customers wrestling for a ‘bargain’, businesses need to be very careful to ensure that their ads are clear and transparent about what’s on offer. Breaching the Advertising Standards Authority‘s CAP (Committee of Advertising Practice) Code could lead to negative publicity and potential fines. A notable example (although not related to Black Friday) of this was in 2013, when Tesco was fined £300,000 for a misleading “half price” promotion of strawberries.
How can I make sure I don’t run into trouble?
You can do this by following the CAP Code. I’ve identified some key areas below:
Advertisers making claims about savings need to ensure these claims are genuine, accurate and must not exaggerate the saving that could be made. Advertisers have to be careful about not inflating prices to just reduce them at a later date. Asda fell foul of this a few years ago when it was found to have artificially inflated the cost of a cereal pack which was then included the next day in a ‘discount’ multi-buy offer. The ASA considered this misleading.
‘All!’ and ‘Everything!’
If an advertiser wants to attract attention to its sale by including phrases like ‘up 50% off everything’ then all items will need to have been discounted in price and a significant proportion will need to have been reduced by the full 50% discount.
Businesses need to make sure price comparisons are accurate and hold evidence to substantiate the usual selling price of their products.
Conditions and exclusions
If conditions and exclusions apply to any ads, then these should be clearly outlined in the ad. The T&Cs should also reference the products to which they refer. The HUT Group previously ran into trouble with the ASA when it issued a Black Friday email, as sufficient information relating to the exclusions was not included in the marketing communication.
Promoters should also ensure they make a reasonable estimate of the expected demand for their promotions. This is particularly important in the context of Black Friday when retailers are likely to face a spike in demand in line with the rest of the market. Regulators expect advertisers to do their homework on this and puts the onus on them to assess the likely response. If demand can’t be met then the ASA expects timely updates to be provided.
Our top tips
* avoid artificially inflating prices in the run up to Black Friday: regulators will likely take a dim view of such ‘yo-yo’ pricing
* demonstrate that a significant proportion of products are available at the stated price/discount when using “from” or “up to” prices or savings
* ensure price comparisons can be backed up, for example with historical pricing records – and make sure you hold objective evidence before any claims are made
* assess the response to a previous promotion for similar products, ensure that availability updates are provided when possible and remember that phrases like “subject to availability” aren’t always sufficient!
Whilst we can’t help with avoiding Black Friday free-for-alls, if instead you would like advice on your promotional marketing, our Commercial Team is happy to help. Get in touch today.
This article is not provided as advice and should not be relied upon as such. We disclaim all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on such information to the fullest extent permissible by law. Reliance should only ever be placed on advice that is given in relation to specific client instructions.