Fibre optic ISP Hyperoptic, which supplies up to 1Gbps FTTP/B broadband services to large buildings in many UK urban areas, has had one of its circular adverts banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because the promotion looked too much like an official communication from BT.
The promotion itself (received in February 2017) was addressed to "The Resident" and stated at the top-left of the front page, albeit only in small print, that it had been "Sent by Hyperoptic Ltd. If undelivered, please return to [their address]" and similarly on the foot of the front page some terms and conditions for the offer were listed.
However one individual complained that the circular "looked like a communication from BT" and the ASA noted that text on the back page stated "Your BT CONTRACT is about to cost you even more…" and appeared to be in the visual form of a contract with reference numbers and other such details. Only a piece of small print at the bottom stated "PLEASE NOTE: THIS IS NOT GENUINE [sic] A BT CONTRACT, OBVIOUSLY."
Sadly we don't have a copy of the ad, which we assume was posted through letterboxes, although Hyperoptic were adamant of their belief that it "was obviously identifiable as a marketing communication, and not correspondence from BT." The ISP also noted that they'd utilised the format and design of their circular twice before, each time to 50,000+ people, and had not previously received any complaints.
Nevertheless the ASA has form in this area and they don't tend to approve of promotions that attempt to look like something they are not.
ASA Ruling (REF: A17-385414)
We noted that the back of the circular contained text at the top stating a scheme reference number and membership number. It also referred to "Your BT contract" in large red print at the top and that below that the first sentence of text began with the underlined word "IMPORTANT". We considered those factors gave the impression that the circular was commercial correspondence which related specifically to the recipient.
The following text was set out to look like a contract; in particular, the parties were listed at the top ("1st Party: Service Provider and 2nd Party: The Customer") and the information underneath was set out in paragraphs which resembled clauses in a legal contract. We noted the tear design in the middle of the page, where the circular opened up, and the icon over the fake tear which stated "Break free & beat the price rise", as well as the small print at the bottom of the page which stated "Please note: this is not genuine [sic] contract, obviously".
We considered that recipients who took time to engage with the back of the circular would identify its true nature, which became even clearer to those who opened it. However, we considered that it was, nevertheless, not obvious that the circular was a marketing communication and was not private commercial correspondence. Because we considered the marketing communication was not obviously identifiable as such, we concluded that the ad breached the Code.
As usual the promotion was banned and Hyperoptic were told to ensure that future marketing communications were obviously identifiable as such.