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Advertiser: Volkswagen, Volkswagen (Blackwater Motors)
Medium: Press, Press (Digital Newspaper)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.22
The advertisement was a sponsored article seen in the Irish Examiner newspaper. The article headline read ‘Make your dreams come true – a new Volkswagen from €18.99 a month’ and invited readers to visit Blackwater Motors for its Volkswagen Open Week. The article referred to offers on various Volkswagen models and advertised low-rate finance and service plans from €18.99 a month.
The complainant considered the headline of the article to be totally misleading as they said it was not possible to buy a new Volkswagen for €18.99 a month, but that only the service plan and not the car itself could be purchased for this price.
Response: The advertisers liaised with Blackwater Motors dealership and confirmed that this was an accidental typo from the Irish Examiner and that it was not immediately noticed by the dealership when they approved the advertorial.
The advertisers provided a timeline which showed that on Friday, 4th of November the draft advertorial was received by Blackwater Motors from the Irish Examiner and that the dealership approved it but missed the typo. The advertorial was subsequently published on Saturday, 5th of November.
The typo was noticed by Blackwater Motors on Monday, 7th of November at 09:24AM and a phone call was made to the Irish Examiner who subsequently amended the headline and republished the article at 09:29AM. The new headline read ‘Make your dreams come true with a new VW from Blackwater Motors’. The advertisers said that the article continued to be promoted in this, its corrected form, until Saturday, 19th of November.
The advertisers offered their apologies to the complainant for this accidental error but wished to flag the speed and responsiveness of both Blackwater Motors and the Irish Examiner as soon as the accidental error was noticed.
The Irish Examiner was also contacted for comment, and they confirmed that the advertorial went live on their website on Saturday, 5th of November, with the error being noticed and flagged by Blackwater Motors dealership on the morning of Monday, 7th of November. They said that the headline was subsequently amended to the correct form ‘Make your dreams come true with a new VW from Blackwater Motors’ and was republished to the website at 09:29AM.
The Irish Examiner wished to highlight that there was no promotion of the advertorial while it featured the incorrect headline on the Monday morning and that the third line of the article clearly explained the €18.99 reference:
‘There are great offers on the Polo, Golf, T-Roc, T-Cross, Tiago and Tiguan models, with low rate finance and service plans from €18.99 per month with all models available for January delivery.’
The Irish Examiner explained that their normal procedure was to allow for a minimum of a week from booking to proofing for a native article, however in this case, the booking
came through on Thursday, 3rd of November, to promote a time sensitive event, to go live on Saturday, 5th of November. They said that they facilitated their client, which meant that the article went live without the full sign-off being secured in advance. The Irish Examiner clarified that they have since met with the Content Studio & Media Solutions Managers to ensure there is rigour in adhering to their processes going forward, namely:
• Minimum one week lead time from booking to publication.
• No native article is published without full sign-off from the client in advance.
They said that there was no intention to mislead and that the initial incorrect headline arose as a result of human error to facilitate their client and as a result of not following their normal procedures. They emphasised that as soon as the error was brought to their attention, the incorrect headline was appropriately amended. They said that they take any complaints very seriously and have communicated their processes with the team to avoid such issues arising again.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail complaint, as well as both the advertisers’ and the Irish Examiner’s responses.
Although noting the speed and responsiveness of both the Blackwater Motors dealership and the Irish Examiner in correcting the error once it was brought to their attention, the Committee was concerned that the review processes had not caught the error. They considered that as the article remained published in its incorrect form for two days before being flagged, this had the potential to mislead consumers and was in breach of Section
4.1 of the Code.
As the advertisement had been appropriately amended, there was no further action required.