Sunday 29 September 2013

Lefty Media Lie About E-Cig Advert Bans

As gleefully reported by The Guardian, Independent, Huffington Post, Metro, BBC 5Live and Watchdog, all current TV and radio e-cig adverts have been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority. Most notably, the E-Lites one featuring Mark Benton.

Now, we need to go back to January for the background to this. Back then, The Times described the tortuous route that the E-Lites ad had taken before being aired.
Adrian Everett, the chief executive of the Bromsgrove-based company, said it had taken 14 months to clear the 30-second advert with Clearcast, the body that vets TV advertising before broadcast. E-Lites was forced to drop any footage of the product itself or promote the “intrinsic benefit of switching” from tobacco to ecigarettes.
Clearcast is a service with, it claims on its website, "50 years expertise in ensuring that television advertising complies with BCAP codes". If anyone knows the rules, it is them, or so E-Lites and three other e-cig sellers assumed.

Sadly, Clearcast were wrong.

The main complaint for all the ads now banned was this one, seen in four separate judgements.
Ten Motives: misleading because it encouraged viewers, and particularly young adults and children, to visit the website but did not make clear the characteristics of the product;
ZULU Ventures: misleading, because it encouraged viewers, and particularly young adults and children, to visit the website but did not make clear the characteristics of the product;
Sorse Distribution: misleading, because it encouraged viewers to visit the website, but did not make clear the characteristics of the product.
Zandera (E-Lites): misleading, because they omitted material information about the product, specifically its ingredients and that it contained nicotine.
In fact, this was the crucial factor in the banning of all of them. The ASA made much the same explanation in all cases, such as this from the Sorse Distribution judgement.
We noted Clearcast had understood that references to the type of product (e-cigarettes) were prohibited by the BCAP Code and that it was for that reason they omitted that information from the ad. However, we understood that the BCAP Code rule only required that ads for non-tobacco products such as e-cigarettes (whether or not they contained nicotine) did not reference or promote smoking or tobacco and did not include a "design, colour, imagery, logo style or the like that might be associated in the audience's mind with a tobacco product". We considered the rule did not prevent an ad containing verbal or text reference to an 'e-cig', 'e-cigarette', or 'vaporiser', providing that it did not also create a link between the product and smoking or tobacco products. We considered it important that ads such as this made clear the nature of the product being advertised and stated whether or not it contained nicotine. We judged that to be material information the consumer needed to know in order to avoid the likelihood of being misled. Because the ad did not make clear the nature of the product being advertised, and that it did not contain nicotine, we concluded the ad was misleading. 
On this point, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 3.1 and 3.2 (Misleading advertising).
So, they were considered misleading because Clearcast had given advice which was over-cautious. A simple thing to fix by amending them to supply more information about their products.

There was one other complaint upheld against E-Lites, centred on the actor tapping his pocket and going outside for a cigarette.
We acknowledged that there were no direct references to smoking or tobacco products, but the ad nonetheless referred to smoking by showing the man going outside for a cigarette. Although, as stated in point 5 above, the reference was oblique, rule 10.5 was nonetheless clear on this point, whether or not the portrayal was negative. 
We considered that a dancing baby was likely to be very attractive to a broad range of children for whom the baby and the dance moves would both be engaging. We recognised that for younger children the reference to smoking was unlikely to be noticed or understood, but for older children, in particular teenagers, the inference would be clear.
The secondary concern here, then, was that canny teens would know the guy was off for a sneaky puff ... just as they see in real life.

That's not exactly how the lefty press reported the ASA rulings though.

BBC Watchdog reportedly claimed "the use of the baby could appeal to younger viewers, particularly teenagers, and as a result may make the act of smoking more attractive to them." which is making a bit of a leap considering the ASA clearly imply that the portrayal was designed to be negative. The ASA also explained that it was not the baby which caused the problem, but that when Mark Benton disappears from the room, it was a reference to smoking.

The Independent cleverly referred to the baby and children without mentioning the ASA's age distinction.
It said that the TV advert could amuse children and breached rules which restrict adverts that might interest children from referring to smoking. 
The Metro article was alarmist and bore little resemblance to the judgements.
E-cigarette advert is banned over baby and nicotine fears
But that's as nothing compared to the Guardian and Huffington Post, both of which blatantly lied.

HuffPoUk did so in their headline, no less:
E-Cigarette Adverts Banned Over Viewer Complaints They 'Normalise Smoking'
While The Guardian also made the lie a central part of their article in the header ...
TV and radio ads for E-Lites must not be broadcast again in current form following complaints they normalised smoking
... and also - without clarification - led readers to believe that tax-sponging government lobbyists Smokefree South West were pivotal in the outcome.
Smokefree South West and 41 others said the ad promoted a nicotine-based product and encouraged and normalised smoking or the use of E-Lites.
Indeed they did, but the ASA rejected their complaint out of hand.
5. Smokefree South West and 41 other complainants who believed that ad (b) promoted a nicotine-based product and encouraged and normalised smoking or the use of E-Lites, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible and therefore harmful. 
5. Not upheld 
As already noted above, e-cigarettes could be sold legally in the UK and were not a prohibited category under the BCAP Code, although they should be advertised responsibly.
We acknowledged the care taken with the TV ad (b) to avoid showing the product or referring directly to tobacco smoking. Although viewers would understand the man tapping his shirt pocket and leaving the room implied he was going outside to smoke, we considered that the ad's emphasis was on what had been missed as a result of smoking and that the ad's depiction of tobacco smoking was therefore negative. For that reason, we considered that the ad did not encourage or normalise smoking
On this point, we investigated the TV ad (b) under BCAP rules 1.2 (Social irresponsibility), 10.4 (Tobacco prohibited categories) and 4.4 (Harm and Offence), but did not find it in breach.
I take it we can discount any bleating from the Graun about press accuracy in the future, then? This is about as blatant as lying gets for a newspaper.

Now, I ask myself this. Why is it that it was only favoured organs of the tobacco control industry which picked up on these judgements the moment they were published? Why is it that they got their facts so very wrong? And why did they imply Smokefree South West to be a decisive complainant when their only complaint was one of the overwhelming majority to be dismissed as bollocks?

Hmm, where do you reckon they got their briefing from?

The above also illustrates that - despite their weasel words about being supportive of e-cigs - the UK tobacco control industry are moving heaven and earth to place as many obstacles in front of them as is humanly possible. .

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