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Product: Food (Takeaway)
Medium: Direct Marketing
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.3, 3.20, 8.4, 8.5, 8.6
The subject line of a marketing email sent by the advertiser said:
“Marvin loves to fill you up.
Marvin.ie – Takeaway Food Online. Pizza, Chinese, Chipper and loads more
So you thought you would try cooking again?
Really, who has the time?
Let’s face it, you are not exactly Jamie Oliver. Stop cooking and start eating! Here’s 25% OFF your next order.
Use this code at checkout:
It makes sense…
Code is valid for the next 14 days and if you pay by credit/debit card, Paypal or Bitcoin.
Unfortunately discount codes are not valid for cash orders.”
The complainant said they found the email to be highly offensive and unethical. They said that they had started to cook more at home in an effort to be healthier and save money, and that in this context they found the email insulting. They said they believed it to be unethical to try to discourage someone from trying to be healthier.
The advertisers said they were disappointed that this automated email campaign had caused the complainant to feel the need to lodge an official complaint, and they said that they apologised fully and unreservedly for any stress caused. They said that the email was sent to all customers who had been inactive on their service for a long period of time, and offered them an incentive to return to the service.
They said they believed that they did not break any guidelines in relation to promoting an unhealthy lifestyle as to do so would be to assume that all options available on the Marvin platform were unhealthy, which they considered to be subjective. They said that the platform offered many different cuisine options including Low Calorie Meal deliveries, Salad Bars, Sandwich Bars, Sushi restaurants and many other widely-regarded healthy options. They said that, ultimately, the user must be responsible for their own choices and that the theme of the email was to encourage the user to abandon the inconvenience of cooking in favour of ordering via their app, regardless of which cuisine type they opted for.
In light of the complaint, however, the advertisers said they would amend the email so that any such offence could be avoided in the future.
The ASAI Executive noted a research study provided by Safefood (1) that sought to examine and compare the temporal pattern of the contribution of fat to energy and the contribution of food groups to fat in the home and outside the home. The results showed that the contribution of fat was greater in food consumed outside the home than at home. The study also identified that the foods which contributed most to fat outside the home included chips, processed potatoes and meat products, e.g. burgers, sausages, meat pies etc.
(Foods consumed ‘outside the home’ (which refers to where the food was prepared) consisted of food consumed in a restaurant, hotel, pub, coffee shop, shop, deli, sandwich bar, takeaway and cinema, and at social functions).
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint, the advertisers’ response and their intention to amend their email advertising. They also considered the findings of the research study cited, which concluded that foods consumed outside the home contributed more to fat content than those consumed at home.
The Complaints Committee considered that the research indicated that the nutritional composition and calorific level of foods consumed outside the home were such that excessive consumption of them should neither be encouraged nor condoned.
The Committee noted the statements in the advertisement, “So you thought you would try cooking again? Really, who has the time?” and “…Stop cooking and start eating” and considered that the advertisement specifically discouraged consumers from preparing meals at home and encouraged the consumption of takeaways on a regular basis.
While they accepted that a range of options were available to consumers, including healthier options, via the platform, they felt that this was not sufficiently promoted in the content of the email, which specifically referenced “Pizza, Chinese, Chipper” as meal options.
In the circumstances, the Committee considered the advertisement to be in breach of Code sections 8.4 and 8.6.
The advertisement must not reappear in its current form.