Advertising on the side of buses stated:
“Better Teachers. Better Results!
The Institute of Education - 50 Years”
An image of three female students holding their results accompanied the text.
A press advertisement featured students holding their exam results.
“The Institute of Education - 50 Years
Congratulations to the class of 2019
For information on our 4th, 5th and 6th year full-time school please visit instituteofeducation.ie or phone 01-661 3511
Some of the 130 students from The Institute of Education who achieved over 550 points in the Leaving Certificate 2019.”
Twenty-two complaints were received regarding the advertising. The issues raised by the complainants were as follows:
The complainants considered the claim “Better Teachers” had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
One complainant stated that in order to teach in a school in Ireland a person must register with the Teaching Council of Ireland and all registered teachers must hold a degree and a teaching qualification such as a higher diploma in education or a professional masters in education. They said that some degree programmes offered this qualification concurrently to the degree. They stated that if teachers at The Institute of Education had additional qualifications this had not been stated in the advertisement.
The complainants considered that the advertisers’ claim to have “Better Results” had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.
One complainant considered that the reference to “Better Results” referred to the Leaving Certificate results which they did not consider could be substantiated. They said that the standard of teaching provided by the advertiser, or any heightened results, could be due to a number of factors, including the socio-economic status of students attending a fee-paying institute.
Several complainants referred to the fact that the advertisers had a minimum grade level requirement for students attending, therefore, the students were already academically driven and their results could not be directly compared to the general population of students. The complainants also referred to the fact that the advertisers’ school was a grind school rather than a general Secondary School, therefore, they considered that the claim “Better Results” was misleading as this information had not been disclosed in the advertising.
Some complainants considered that the claim was disparaging and degrading other teachers and education staff.
Eleven of the complainants considered the claims to be offensive.
The advertisers stated that the intention of the campaign was in no way meant to upset, offend or misleading anyone. They said that they were celebrating their 50th year and they said that they were defined by their standards of education and their teachers were some of the brightest educators in Ireland. They said that their teachers were dedicated and experienced and they inspired students to realise their ambitions and unlock their full potential. They said that their students chose to come to their school for a variety of reasons but predominantly because of their reputation, which they had earned over the course of the past 50 years.
Issues 1 and 2
They said that their campaign did not draw a direct or indirect comparison to teachers in other schools, be their public or private, nor did they imply, intend to imply or believe that an implication could be taken, that their teachers were the best.
They said that the statement “Better Teachers Better Results!” was intended to be regarded as an example of puffery rather than as a statement of fact. They considered that the slogan was clearly a subjective opinion and so could never be considered as a statement of fact as it could not be objectively verified. They said that advertising was puffery was a practice which was commonplace in advertising globally and their understanding was that it did not conflict with the ASAI Code. They said that the practice was used every day in Ireland by brands
The advertisers also said that they believed that better teachers inspired their students to become independent critical thinkers who left school with more than just a set of academic qualifications. They said that their teachers did just that and encouraged their students to aim high with their ambitions and supported them as they navigated their way through the demands of the secondary school system.
Finally, they said that they have never received or sought funding of any kind from a state body and were completely self-funding. They also said that their teachers and staff were very proud of their school and their students.
The advertisers did not address the issues raised in this complaint.
The advertisers stated that they utterly refuted that their tagline “Better Teachers Better Results” was in anyway likely to cause grave or widespread offence. They said that in the thousands of communications they have had with their school community since the campaign, not one individual had expressed any hint of offence regarding it. They said that they had not engaged with, nor promoted, any of the media coverage of their campaign and they noted that there was an absence of offence expressed in that coverage. They reiterated that the intention of their campaign was not to upset, offend or mislead anyone.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
Issues 1 and 2 - Upheld
While the Committee accepted that puffery was acceptable under the Code, they considered in this case consumers would be likely to regard the claims as being objectively true.
The Committee considered whether the claims ‘Better Teachers’ and ‘Better Results’ were comparative claims. They noted the Code provision that comparisons could be implied and that comparisons that did not identify a specific competitor could still be considered to be a comparison with all competition within an industry (Section 4.31).
The Committee considered that consumers would regard the claims in the advertisement ‘Better Teachers’ and ‘Better Results’ to be comparisons against all other second level teachers and the results of all other schools in the secondary level state examinations.
The Committee noted that substantiation for the claims had not been provided and in the absence of substantiation they considered that the advertising was in breach of Sections 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.32 and 4.33 of the Code.
Issue 3 – Upheld:
The Committee noted the advertisers’ general comments that the intention of the campaign was in no way meant to upset, offend or mislead anyone.
They noted the Code provision that marketing communications should not denigrate other businesses or their products (Section 4.34). As the Committee had found that the claims were comparative claims that had not been substantiated, they considered that the claim to have “Better Teachers” and “Better Results” could be viewed as disparaging or denigratory to other schools, and by association teachers working there, and in the circumstances the Committee considered the advertising at Issue 3 was in breach of Section 4.34 of the Code.
Issue 4 – Not Upheld:
The Committee considered the complaints and noted the comments from the advertisers’ that they had not set out to upset or offend. While the Committee noted the complainants’ view that the advertising was offensive, they did not consider that the advertising had caused either grave or widespread offence. In the circumstances the Committee did not consider that Issue 4 of the advertising was in breach of the Code.
The advertising must not reappear in its current form. The Committee told the advertisers not to use comparative claims without substantiation.