Direct mail company Scotts of Stow has successfully defended its use of a spoof form of marketing – despite the advertising watchdog having received 12 complaints about it.
The case concerned some of the company’s Original Gift Company brochures, whose cover was designed in the style of a newspaper front page and referred to the individual recipient in the headline text and the article.
The front page of one of the brochures stated: “XXXX has a gift for giving! Voted Kent’s best and most original giver of gifts, Mr X XXXX of [address] has the magic touch. His friends and neighbours agree they are always astonished at the quality and originality of the gifts he finds. Although Mr XXXX wasn’t available for comment at the time of going to press, he let slip to one of our reporters that when he needs presents with real impact, he shops with The Original Gift Company….”
Text inside the brochure said: “… I do hope that our ‘spoof’ front cover has brought a smile to your face and not a frown. As one of our most valued customers, we thought it would be a bit of fun to cast you as the ‘Star’ of this, our latest catalogue … Don’t worry though, your generosity and your talent for selecting original gifts will remain a secret with us. This is the only copy of our catalogue that bears your name and elements of your address on the cover! …”
Some recipients of the brochures complained to the Advertising Standards Authority about the appearance of their name and address on the front cover, pointing out that none of the statements had actually been made by them.
But the authority dismissed all the complaints. It said that because the brochure was headed “The Original Gift Company NEWS … and Catalogue” it was clear that it was marketing material, and the thinking behind the personalised marketing approach was explained inside.
It also said that each spoof article was meant for one recipient only and that therefore the recipient had not been unfairly portrayed. The brochure was also unlikely to cause widespread offence.