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Advertiser: Wolfgang Digital (The Sex Shop.ie)
Medium: Internet (Third Party Website)
Codes:ASAI Code 6th Edition: 1.6(c), 2.22, 2.24, 2.47
A sponsored link from Google led to the SexShop.ie website, a website owned by digital marketing company Wolfgang Digital. The marketing communication on the website referred to the following:
“Get the DiPFOC Today - TheSexShop.ie
Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed With The DiPFOC Vibrating Strap-On!”
The complainants DPFOC (Driving Profitability For Our Clients), also a digital marketing company, said that Wolfgang Digital had created a product, which they described as fictitious, on their SexShop.ie website, named it the DiPFOC and paid for a sponsored link through Google to direct people to it.
The complainants said that they considered the advertisers had bid on the word DiPFOC through Google to put them ahead of their company name DPFOC when users of the Google search engine inputted the word.
The advertisers said that their advertisement for the product in question had only been live for a matter of hours. They said they never expected Google searches for "DPFOC" digital marketing agency to trigger thesexshop.ie ads for "The DiPFOC" vibrating strap-on. They considered it to be clear that their advertisement on thesexshop.ie was referring to "The DiPFOC" vibrating strap-on and not the DPFOC digital marketing agency. Once they realised Google was serving ads for a misspelling of "DiPFOC" they deleted both the ad campaign and the webpage referring to the product from thesexshop.ie website.
The advertisers said they considered the scenario, as outlined by the complainants, had occurred because towards the end of 2014, Google AdWords changed how it served advertisements to allow more results show, including misspellings of a word. While 99% of the time this helped the advertiser get higher volumes of relevant traffic, there was always a 1% chance that an advertisement could be served to somebody looking for something entirely different.
The Secretariat asked the advertisers to comment on the fact, as outlined by the complainants, that the DiPFOC product advertised was a fictitious item.
In response they said their sex shop website was based around the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Principles i.e. they tested the market for potential products before developing them. They said had there been a demand for the product in this case they would have gone in to production, but as this was not the case they did not develop the product further.
The Secretariat asked the advertisers to comment on the fact that it was not in keeping with the requirements of the Code to advertise products as a way of gauging possible demand, unless it was made clear in the marketing communication. They also asked the advertisers for their comments on the fact that their advertising may have breached the misleading sections of the Code. The advertisers did not respond further in the matter.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaint and the responses received from the advertisers. They noted the name of the product advertised and the complainant’s company name. The Committee reminded all advertisers that, unless it was clearly indicated in marketing communications, products should not be advertised as a way of gauging possible demand. In the circumstances the Committee upheld the complaint under Sections 2.22, 2.24 and 2.47 of the Code.
The Complaints Committee noted that advertising had been removed but nevertheless advised the advertisers that it should not be used in the same format again.