Radio Forth car advert criticised by watchdog

AN advert on Edinburgh-based commercial radio station, Radio Forth, has been found to have breached regulations set by broadcasting watchdog, Ofcom.

It follows sponsorship of Forth One’s travel bulletin, which claimed a local Mercedes-Benz dealership was enjoying 100 per cent customer satisfaction for its after-sales service.

Although Forth’s owners, Bauer Media, had contacted the Radio Advertising Clearance Centre – the radio industry body that approves radio advertising before broadcast – to ensure the advert was okay to use, Ofcom considered the wording, “100 per cent after-sales customer recommendation in 2011″, did not make clear enough the figure was from a sample rather than all customers.

Ofcom was alerted to the advert by a listener.

Says Ofcom, in its adjudication: “Bauer said that Forth One considered the sponsorship credit complied with [its broadcasting dode], as the station had obtained RACC clearance for its broadcast, for which the substantiation provided by the sponsor had been ‘in the form of a survey which was operated by an independent company on behalf of Mercedes Benz’. It added that such surveys were ‘used to rate dealerships across the country in order to obtain customer satisfaction levels’, adding that Radio Forth had taken this ‘in good faith as substantiation of the claim’.

“Bauer accepted that ‘the 100 per cent customer recommendation claim may have been clearer as the substantiation was a sample of the total number of customers’. Nevertheless, Bauer reiterated that it ‘went through all the appropriate procedures to ensure the advertising copy was cleared by the national body – the RACC – and that [it] ensured any claims were verifiable and accurate’. Further, Bauer added that its ‘own internal compliance procedures did not highlight an issue’, as ‘no consumer surveys ever survey 100 per cent of the consumers of a particular product or service’. Bauer said that it was ‘industry practice to create a robust sample of customers and to use this data as a proxy for the entire customer database’. In this instance, Bauer considered the survey to have been both independent and of sufficient sample size to make it statistically accurate.”

Continues Ofcom, RACC “added that it had understood the substantiation to relate to the entire customer base of [the] dealership, although it had now established that such material related to only 28 per cent of customers – ie those who had responded to Mercedes-Benz‟s survey”.

In concluding that the advert breached a regulation about the content of radio advertising, Ofcom said: “We have instructed Bauer to ensure that the sponsorship credit is not broadcast again without amendment that reflects substantiation held or obtained from the sponsor.”