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Reading the small print on tv ads

Community Veteran
Posts: 16,868
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Reading the small print on tv ads

Some tv ads are cleverly misleading, in the way they present the product as "super dooper" " upgraded" "latest" "new", etc. and this is emblazoned across the product, whilst the background is an everchanging shade of greys and whites. To comply with certain "advertising regulations" (I presume) and to "cover their backs" in case someone spots it is the same old product in a new box, there is a couple of lines of white text that is very small (so as not to detract from the product ! ! ) with a few carefully chosen "get out" words and phrases. 
I find it very difficult to read this text. 1, because it is nearly the same colour as the background,  and 2, because of the size...
does anyone else have this problem?
15 REPLIES
Community Veteran
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Registered: 30-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Quote from: shutter
same old product in a new box,


Dunno! about the legibility issue but, the above has been around since cavemen wanted to introduce an "improved" stone axe. Particularly rife in the: motor, domestic appliance, washing products, computer gizmo's, kitchen appliance, electronic household goods, furniture and food industries; in fact anything you touch can have a new improved version, that merely has a new box, outer shell etc. etc. or indeed simply a new price!! 
Experience; is something you gain, just after you needed it most.

When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you. But because in that brief moment while the coin is in the air. You suddenly know what you are hoping for.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

I think you're right, they put the words there because they are forced to but sometimes there are so many you can't read them all before the commercial is finished.
Another point on the same lines is the small print in some newspaper ads.  I was reading an ad the other day and it was impossible to read all the small print at the bottom. No doubt that's why they call it small print Angry
Community Veteran
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

I am asking this question, because I think I may write a letter of complaint to the "ASA"  Advertising Standards Authority".... so would appreciate as many comments as possible.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 30-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

You could try the ASA, but I suspect you will be referred to the Ad agency who made the Ad who, will probably refer you to the customer (manufacturer) who will refer you to the TV/media company, to be referred to ASA by them. ASA is a somewhat toothless animal inhabited by ad makers, that only throws its limited weight about when forced to by massive public outrage or government interference. And then everyone involved except the aggrieved party ignores them.
There is far far too much money in advertising for any insider to rock a boat.
Experience; is something you gain, just after you needed it most.

When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you. But because in that brief moment while the coin is in the air. You suddenly know what you are hoping for.
craigyoung
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Registered: 06-09-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Shutter
What they will tell you is that there are certain regulations that must be followed - ie small print which makes clear to the customer any pertinent issues they need to know before buying - eg if the headline  is broadband for a fiver, the small print must state the ongoing price after the first three months, or 'our sweets are lovely", small print says may contain nuts.  Some are reasonable, some are overkill in my opinion, but that's the basis of why it's there - in case anyone jumps from their seat and say "Wow - I'm buying that straight away without any more research".  And then finding out that the product contains nuts and dying etc.
There are then regulations over how prominent the small print needs to e - size of font, time on screen, use of asterisks etc etc.  99% of all the TV ads will comply with current regs because the costs of having an ad pulled aren't worth the risk.  So, you won't get much of a helpful response from the ASA in all likelihood.   But that shouldn't stop you writing if you feel strongly about it.  Changes have happened in the past - eg the prominence of the typical APR in financial services ads was changed a few years back.  
Hope that helps.  Anyone would think I work in marketing.....
/puts hands in pockets and shuffles off awkwardly.../
Community Veteran
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Quote from: cyoung
Shutter
ie small print which makes clear to the customer any pertinent issues they need to know before buying - eg if the headline  is broadband for a fiver, the small print must state the ongoing price after the first three months, or 'our sweets are lovely", small print says may contain nuts.  
Hope that helps.  Anyone would think I work in marketing.....
/puts hands in pockets and shuffles off awkwardly.../

Which is my point exactly.... the small print should be readable in order for it to "make clear to the customer ....."  if it is NOT readable, then it is definitely NOT making anything clear, and is only put there as a "sop" to the legalities.  In my opinion this is blatant "rule bending" and in effect misleading the consumer because they cannot read the information given.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

I'm with you on this Shutter.  Small print can't be small enough that an average person can't read it.
I disagree with Petlew about the ASA.  I have complained to them on 2 occasions and they took action on both and the ads were withdrawn.
Community Veteran
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Registered: 30-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Oh do tell?
Experience; is something you gain, just after you needed it most.

When faced with two choices, simply toss a coin. It works not because it settles the question for you. But because in that brief moment while the coin is in the air. You suddenly know what you are hoping for.
Community Veteran
Posts: 18,552
Thanks: 195
Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

The first was about an airline advertising direct flights from London to the US.  When I looked into it they actually stopped off in Scotland to pick up more passengers.  They were told to withdraw their ad and they actually went bust a few months later.
The second was against Orange.  I really can't remember the details too well but they were advertising in the press something that wasn't as it seemed when you tried to get it.
Community Veteran
Posts: 16,868
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Registered: 06-11-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

There are about 4 ads that concern me regarding the "unreadable" wording across the bottom of the screen.... I have a feeling they are all done by the same agency, can`t recall them at the moment, but will be keeping a pencil and paper handy to jot down the ads and the time of transmission and channel. then will put them all together on one complaint.
any further comments by PN members?
Community Veteran
Posts: 18,552
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Registered: 12-08-2007

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Some of the print would not be readable on a small screen TV and also many of the ads do not stay on long enough to be able to read.  I think both of these points should be mentioned.
Community Veteran
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Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

Yes, I am pretty good at constructing a complaint letter, and do list details as numbered points, and then explain why I think their is grounds for complaint on each one.
mentalist3d
Grafter
Posts: 371
Registered: 20-08-2009

Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

I'm long sighted so I have usually no probs reading the small print on TV ads, which makes some funny adverts, as I find the small print usually goes against the message they are trying sell to us.
You could try having a look at the Disabilities Discrimination Act or Ofcom guidelines: http://www.ofcom.org.uk/tv/ifi/guidance/tv_access_serv/guidelines/
Quote
Best practice
2.4 Presentation: subtitling should use the Tiresias Screenfont for all subtitles. Subtitles on standard definition DTT services should be no less than 20 television lines for the capital ‘V’, to include those lines at the top and bottom of each character containing pixels that are at least 50% illuminated. Although Ofcom does not regulate equipment used to render subtitles in cable and satellite services, Ofcom also recommends that cable and satellite platform providers adhere to the same standards. Broadcasters are encouraged to use anti-aliasing techniques to help make the appearance of subtitles clearer. Subtitles should be placed within the ‘safe caption area’ of a 14:9 display and should normally occupy the bottom of the screen, except where they would obscure the speaker’s mouth or other vital information or activity. It is particularly important to avoid obscuring the face, as this convey emotions and tone of voice, as well as being necessary for lip-reading.

Don't know if any of it could be applied to TV ads though but might lend some strength to a complaint Wink
jnwright
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Re: Reading the small print on tv ads

There is quite a bit of info on text within commercials in this ASA guidance pdf file. Subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing viewers are dealt with differently.