The advertisement opened with the headshot of a child (Tala). The child had been crying and his eyes had been weeping. The next scene was set in an operating theatre with an older child being carried in by a medical person in scrubs, the child had bandages across his eyes. This is followed by a mother removing the bandage from her child’s eye. Then we see the mother and child smiling, the child still has a bandage on one eye. The final scene is the same as the opening shot.
The above scenes were accompanied by a male voiceover (MVO) as follows:
MVO: “Can you look Tala in the eyes and say you can’t afford to save his sight. Just €4 is enough to save the sight of five children like Tala.”
As the MVO continued to speak, his spoken words also appeared as on screen text as follows:
“Become a Sightsaver supporter and pledge as little as €4. Text Save (this flashes on screen) to 57666. (this flashes again on screen) Please text SAVE to 57666.”
The end on screen text carried the following message:
“Texting save will not result in a mobile donation. You will be able to make your donation online or a representative will contact you by phone or SMS. Standard network rates apply…”
The complainant said that he texted the number provided to donate €4 to the charity, he considered this sum of money would be taken from his phone balance. He then received a text back which stated “Hi! We will call you shortly to take your donation. With your help Sightsavers can ensure no child goes needlessly blind”. During the telephone conversation which ensued the complainant said that he was requested to sign up to a monthly direct debit to the Charity, he refused to do so. He considered he had been misled by the advertising and that elderly vulnerable people could also find themselves in a situation where they ended up signing up to a direct monthly debit to the charity which they had never intended to do in the first instance.
The advertisers said that by way of background, they were a charitable organisation which, amongst other charitable purposes, endeavoured to eliminate blindness, restore sight where possible and end exclusion for people with visual impairments and disabilities. The purpose of their advertisement was to invite people to support the charity by pledging money towards the prevention and elimination of avoidable blindness.
They said the advertisement was aimed at an adult audience and had appeared at times when the likely viewing audience were adults. They said their advertising had combined images, voiceover and text.
They drew particular attention to the fact that the on-screen text had explicitly stated that “Texting save will not result in a mobile donation”. They said likewise, the voiceover had never indicated that the donation would be taken from a mobile account number. They said it was also clear from the text message consumers received when they texted Save to 57666 that no donation had been taken at that point in time and alongside the message consumers were also provided with a website address where they were provided with further information. They also provided a number as part of the text message for consumers to text ‘Stop’ to should they not wish to be contacted further by them.
The advertisers said that if a consumer decided to set up a direct debit payment they always had the 14 days cooling off period, as required by law, should they wish to change their mind. This ensured that there was no immediate pressure on anyone to sign up to an immediate direct debit. The advertisers pointed out that they were happy to receive any donation, whether it be a once off donation or a direct debit payment.
In conclusion they said they did not consider their advertising to be misleading and considered that they had been clear, honest and truthful at all times with consumers.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response. The Committee considered that it was more appropriate to deal with this matter by way of a statement.
The Committee considered that there was a high level of awareness amongst consumers of the custom of ‘texting’ to donate, with the donation being deducted immediately from credit. They noted that when consumers donated by text in this manner, the maximum that could be donated via a mobile donation was €4.
The Committee acknowledged that in the case of Sightsavers, the advertising had included on-screen text which had stated that texting would not result in a mobile donation and that consumers would be phoned to set up a donation. The Committee noted that the subsequent call to the consumer could result in a donation greater than the €4 noted in the advertisement. While this on-screen text was prominent the Committee noted that it was not as prominent as other text, which stated “SAVE TO 57666”.
The Committee considered that while on-screen text provided clarity about the nature of what would transpire after the text had been sent, the voice over did not, stating twice “Text SAVE to 57666” with the matching on-screen text “SAVE TO 57666” being emphasised in time with the voiceover.
They were concerned that the overall presentation lacked clarity and therefore had the potential to confuse. The Committee considered that including the information in the voiceover, as well as in the text, would have provided consumers with a better understanding that by texting they would subsequently receive a call from the fundraiser.
The Committee requested the advertisers to take note of their concerns and to include the qualifying information that texting would not result in a mobile donation, in the voiceover as well as in the on-screen text in future advertising.