On-screen text in the opening scene of the advertisement provided the following information:
This is an urgent appeal from Oxfam Ireland”
This was followed with a scene of a young child (Samira) being held in her mother’s arms. A further scene depicted water being poured over a child’s outstretched hands these scenes were accompanied by a male voiceover which stated:
“This is an urgent appeal from Oxfam Ireland
In the next 24 hours thousands of children like Samira will die from drinking dirty water. You can help stop this. As little as €4 can be the difference between life and death. Text HELP to 57666. Please text HELP to 57666 now.”
Onscreen text appeared again in conjunction with the voiceover and stated:
As little as €4 can be the difference between life and death text
HELP to 57666
Texting HELP will not result in a mobile donation. A representative will contact you by phone to set up your donation. Standard rates apply...”
The complainant said that she texted the number provided to donate €4, which she considered would be taken from her phone credit. She then received a text back to say that she would receive a phone call from the charity. When she later received the call it was explained to her what the money was being used for and it became evident to her that the charity was asking consumers to sign up to a weekly donation of €4 through their bank. She considered she had been misled by the advertising.
The advertisers said they take their responsibility to consumers and society very seriously. The advertisement in question was prepared in order to highlight the significant problem of children dying from drinking dirty water and to ask consumers for their help in addressing the problem. They said a report by the World Health Organisation 2015, stated that each year 361,000 children under 5 die from the effects of drinking dirty water.
The advertisers said their advertising was aimed at an adult audience and they considered the message contained within and the on-screen text provided to be very clear. They said there had been no suggestion that in texting, consumers were donating €4 from their phone credit, but rather what they had stated in their advertising was that “Texting HELP will not result in a mobile donation. A representative will contact you by phone to setup your donation”.
When consumers texted the number provided they received the following text message in return “We will call you to set up your donation. If You’d rather we didn’t call you though, just text ‘STOP’ to 57666 to stop any future calls from Oxfam Ireland. This message also contained a website address where further information was provided to respondents. A customer service number was also provided in the message.
They also said that they never asked that consumers donate a specific amount but had rather suggested that €4 could be the difference between life and death for a child. They said they were grateful for any donation received.
In conclusion the advertisers said that they considered that the conversation that had taken place between the complainant and their representative, rather than the content of the advertising itself, is what gave rise to the complaint in this instance. They considered that perhaps there had been a breakdown in communication and they reiterated that there was no obligation on the part of any consumer to set up a weekly payment to the charity and that they were grateful to accept any once off donation a person may wish to make.
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 Oxfam, 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 “HELP 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 Help to 57666” with the matching on-screen text “HELP 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.