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Advertiser: Bluecrest Health Screening
Medium: Direct Mail
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 5.22(a)
A piece of direct mail issued by Bluecrest Health Screening to householders, provided a priority code and contained the following headline which could be viewed through the window of the envelope:
“YOUR HEALTH SCREENING APPOINTMENT”
The mailing then offered the nearest venue and date to those who wished to avail of a health screening appointment. The following information was provided underneath to those wishing to avail of an appointment:
“IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR HEALTH SCREENING
I’m pleased to invite you to a Health screening Clinic we are holding at (venue) on (day and date). I would be most grateful if you could call us on 1800 … … to confirm your appointment time. Please note, no appointment will be reserved until you call”.
Alongside the various health checks provided, the marketing communication referred to the fact that:
“You also have the reassurance of FREE 24 hour Private Doctor helpline … 365 days a year, so you can discuss any health concerns you or family members may have confidentially. Your service is valid for a full year, and not just for conditions relating to your screening results.” At another point in the advertisement a bubble contained the text “INCLUDES FREE GP helpline service”.
On the last page of the leaflet the following question was posed:
“Just €149… Surely this should cost more?
That’s our Standard Health Screen. But should you wish, you can ask for additional checks for a wide variety of health concerns…”
At the end of the last page, beside a Freephone number, text stated “if you can no longer make your appointment …”
Ten complaints were received about the direct mailings from the advertisers
The complainants considered the marketing communication to be misleading and considered that it could cause confusion and anxiety amongst consumers. They pointed out that it was not clear that the direct mail was an advertisement, rather it imitated a personalised appointment with references to ‘Health Screening Appointment’ (which was visible from the envelope’s window), ‘Venue’, ‘Date’, ‘Priority Code’ and ‘If you can’t make your appointment …’.
Complainants also considered that the marketing communication was misleading because it resembled communications from the HSE and health centres communicating about health appointments and by inviting consumers to confirm their time, implied that an appointment had already been made. They considered that this could cause confusion, anxiety and upset for consumers, particularly those that had regular and legitimate medical appointments in hospitals, community health centres or at their GP’s clinic. One complainant recounted that his mother had arranged transport to the ‘appointment’ on receipt of the marketing communication.
Complainants considered that multiple mentions of the ‘Free’ GP helpline was misleading as it was only on the 4th page that the cost of the screening, upon which the access to the free service was dependent, was mentioned.
The advertisers said that they would be happy to make amendments to their advertising. They said it appeared to be the case that the use of the wording “Health Screening Appointment”, which could be seen through the window of the envelope was causing the most confusion, alongside the headline in the introductory paragraph.
The advertisers asked that it be noted that their letters were not direct mail letters as they had not contained personally identifiable information on the recipients nor had not been addressed directly to them.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response.
Issue 1 upheld
The Committee considered the language and layout used was likely to mislead. The emphasis on the word “Appointment” about “important information about your health screening” with a venue and date gave no indication to consumers that the material concerned was in fact advertising.
The Complaints Committee considered that absence of a clear indication that the material was a marketing communications was in breach of sections 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
Issue 2 upheld
The Committee considered it was reasonable for consumers to view the marketing communication, on at least their first reading, as a legitimate medical appointment. They noted the heading “Health Screening Appointment” and the headline “Important Information about your health screening” in conjunction with venue and date location and an invitation to call to ‘confirm your time’. In the circumstances they considered that the marketing communications was in breach of Sections 4.1 and 4.4 of the Code.
Issue 3 upheld
The Committee noted that the ‘free GP’ offer was dependant on purchasing the screening product. They did not consider that this was clear in the marketing communication and concluded therefore that it was likely to mislead. They considered that the marketing communication was in breach of 5.22(a) of the Code.
The Committee noted that the advertisers had offered to amend their advertising and advised them that they should do so in keeping with their recommendations.