ASA upholds complaint over Wayfair advert

Online homeware retailer Wayfair.co.uk has had its knuckles rapped by the ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) for misleading viewers in an advert.

A Wayfair.co.uk TV ad, seen on January 29, featured a voice-over which stated: “When you need something for your home, Wayfair’s got you covered. At Wayfair.co.uk everything home is in one place… Come find what you need at Wayfair.co.uk.”

Throughout the ad, various home products were shown in conjunction with a search tool bar. One scene of the ad featured on-screen text which stated “stock and styles may vary”.

But the UK’s regulator of advertising received a complaint about the ad from someone who believed that some of the products advertised were not listed on Wayfair.co.uk’s website. The complainant challenged whether the ad was misleading.

Wayfair (UK) Ltd t/a Wayfair.co.uk said it had included on-screen text to notify viewers that products available on its website may not always be identical to those seen in the ad.

The company stated that the ad was intended to offer an overall general representation of the Wayfair brand and catalogue rather than a promotion of any particular products. Wayfair said that its catalogue included several million individual products worldwide and, as such, its inventory was constantly changing.

Wayfair explained that 40% of the products featured in the ad were available directly on its website.

The retailer provided a table which demonstrated that a number of products shown during the ad were available on the website or that it offered a similar alternative product.

Wayfair added that the ad was shot in the US where Wayfair is based and therefore the number of products featured from the UK catalogue was restricted. It highlighted that in the phone and tablet scene in the ad, products had been edited to ensure they accurately represented the UK stock available at the time.

The ASA acknowledged that the intention of the ad was to offer a general representation of the Wayfair brand and catalogue. However, it considered many UK consumers would not be aware that Wayfair was a US brand with a large and variable product catalogue, of which only a proportion was available in the UK.

The regulatory body also noted that, when particular products were shown throughout the ad, they were shown in conjunction with a search tool bar. It considered that the search tool bar gave the impression that consumers could obtain the products by similarly searching on the Wayfair website.

The ASA accepted that stock may change and vary over time and noted the presence of the on-screen text which stated “stocks and styles may vary”. However, it also noted that the on-screen text was shown for a short time period rather than throughout the ad. Furthermore, the size of the text was significantly smaller in comparison to other text which appeared during the ad.

While the on-screen text complied with relevant guidance relating to the legibility of on-screen text, the ASA considered that it was insufficient to counteract the overall impression of the ad, which was that the products shown were available on the Wayfair website.

Because some of the products shown throughout the ad were not stocked, including the slipcover shown being pulled over the couch while the word ‘slipcover’ was typed into the search bar tool, the ASA concluded that the ad was misleading and must not be broadcast again in its current form.

ASA told Wayfair UK to ensure that future ads did not imply that all products shown were available on their website if that was not the case.

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