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Advertiser: Musgrave Group (SuperValu)
Medium: Internet (Social Media)
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 4.1, 4.4, 4.9, 4.10, 4.27, 4.28(a), 4.28(b), 5.11, 5.12, 5.13
Two Instagram posts on the advertisers’ own Instagram account stated:
Post 1 – 12th February 2020
“The rumours are true! @thewhisperingangel has arrived in SuperValu and is HALF PRICE for two days only. You better be quick, when they're gone, they're gone.
Whispering angel 75cl Now €15 in your local SuperValu.
Over 18s only. Always drink responsibly. Offer available Thursday 13th & Friday 14th February only. Real Rewards customers only, while stocks last. Customer quotas apply. This offer is excluded from the buy six save €10 wine offer.”
Post 2 – 13th February 2020
“Yes Way Rose.
This is not a drill @thewhisperingangel is in-stores now. Tag someone who needs to know so they don't miss out! The award winning Whispering Angel is the perfect gift for Valentine's, Galentine's or buy now for those summer soirees. We think it would also make a fab gift for your bridesmaids or to celebrate a hen night.
Over 18's only. Always drink responsibly.”
An Instagram post by an influencer as part of a paid partnership with Supervalu on the 13th of February stated:
“My dream Valentine’s Day is one at home with the perfect bottle of wine and let’s face it who doesn’t love Whispering Angel! Lots of you guessed correctly, @supervalu_irl have Whispering Angel on HALF PRICE offer for 48hours only, that’s €15 a bottle down from €30! Whether you’re at home with your partner or just chilling with friends, make it pink this Friday! (editing later as just found out you need a Real Rewards Card to avail of the discount, if you don’t have one it’s no problem just ask for one at the till!).
The complainant considered that the offer was in breach of the Code as they did not believe that sufficient stock had been sourced for the promotion.
The complainant said that they had placed an order with Supervalu on the morning of Thursday 13th February for 6 bottles of Whispering Angel, as the item had just appeared online. They said that their order was placed online through Supervalu in Ranelagh. The complainant said they had confirmed on the Supervalu online "chat" facility that even though the product was labelled as €30 it would appear on their bill as €15. The complainant said that they had also asked Supervalu via twitter the night before ordering if they could avail of the offer online and were told that they could.
Once the complainant became aware that their order had not been fulfilled, they contacted the advertisers and were told that orders were packed on the day and that the offer had sold out in most stores by 11am. The complainant also said they were informed that no bottles were assigned for online orders and that it was simply what was available in the store. The complainant said that by this logic, then only customers who were in store at 10.30am (the time the offer went live) would have been able to avail of the offer and therefore no online orders would have been fulfilled.
The complainant said that they were also informed that 48-hour offers were regularly run, and that this offer happened to be more popular. The complainant said that they did not consider this was correct considering the social media campaign and paid partnerships which the advertiser had engaged in to promote the offer. The complainant also said that they were not aware of any social media campaign in respect of other ’48 hour’ offers like this before by the advertiser. In the circumstances the complainant did not consider that the level of stock available was sufficient to meet the demand created by the promotional campaign for the offer.
The advertisers stated that the offer related to an Instagram advertised offer that turned out to be very popular. They said that the store the complainant referred to, SuperValu Ranelagh, had been provided with 21 cases of the product and it appeared that the offer was simply sold out by the time the customer’s order was processed.
The advertisers stated that this was a short-term promotion (48 hours) which had been made clear in the Instagram posts. They said it was also clear from their own posts that the offer was limited to the availability of stock, with their first post stating “when they’re gone they’re gone” and from the complaint it appeared that the customer was aware that this was a limited availability offer.
The advertisers stated that they had believed that they had sufficient stock to meet demand, however, they had not anticipated the level of demand that the advertisement produced, particularly in some suburban locations. They said that they sold more Whispering Angel in the 48 hours of this promotion than the product had sold in the year nationally by them and the demand in this case was unprecedented and could not have been anticipated. The advertisers said that they believed that the unanticipated take up of this offer came from the brand equity of the product itself within a market segment rather than their campaign, which, like for like, had a smaller budget than previous similar campaigns. The advertisers provided the ASAI Executive, on a confidential basis, with the total cost of the campaign and comparative costs for other similar campaigns.
They said that their intention was that this offer would be fully stocked, and they believed when the advertisement was posted that they had sufficient stock. They said they also made it clear that the offer was subject to stock availability. They said in retrospect this was not the case, however, they issued the advertising in good faith and had noted the exceptional demand for this product when on promotion and would take account of this for any future promotional activity on this product line.
The advertisers stated that while this product was not on sale in their Ranelagh store prior to this promotion, it had been on sale in other SuperValu and Centra (part of the Musgrave Group) stores. They said that they had stated in one of the posts that the product “had arrived” because the product had not been available in all stores nationally and that stating it had now arrived allowed consumers to know it was widely available. They said in addition, it was on sale in a number of independent stores nationally and at a well-known supermarket at the same price or at a higher price. They said they were happy that the price had been established in the market and within their own stores. They said it should be noted that a premium niche product such as this would not be as widely distributed as other ranges. They said as they were running this short-term promotion, they extended the distribution of this product to a larger number of stores and as noted in some stores such as SuperValu Ranelagh, there was significant demand, and they regret that some customers (such as the complainant) may not have been able to purchase the product at the promoted price. They said that the product in question had brought with it an anomalous marketing response that a senior Buyer had not experienced in 30 years in wine sales as the brand’s resonance at the time exceeded that of normal wine products. They said that there appeared to be a ‘badge’ consumption element to this product that they had not experienced with other brands. They said that had they foreseen the demand for the product, they would have happily purchased more volume.
They said the promotion was huge and bigger than anticipated and they had intended it to run for 48 hours in full. They said that advertising for the offer was removed after 24 hours from the night before the offer as stocks had depleted faster than they had expected. They said that, as well as the advertising on Instagram, they had also advertised the promotion through TV & Radio – Thursday and until 1pm Friday, on National Press on the Thursday only, and had also posted on the National SuperValu Facebook Page. In regard to the engagement of a social media influencer, they said that it was correct to say that they do not engage influencers for every alcohol promotion they have and that it was more typical of them to engage them for non-alcohol products.
In regard to the online order process, they said that the display of a product online did not guarantee stock as they do not have a live system linking to what is available in store, so when a product is ordered it may have been physically removed from the shelf at the time of the online order. They said their terms and conditions for online shopping set out the following in relation to availability and in addition on their online site the below message shown appears:
4.14. Availability of Items. Your local SuperValu is constantly working to ensure that only items available in Store are shown online, however neither your local SuperValu store nor Musgrave can guarantee availability of any item, and cannot be held liable for non-delivery of unavailable items. Your local SuperValu will when possible, substitute unavailable items with similar items or identical items in alternative quantities unless instructed otherwise. Any substituted items will be clearly marked on your delivery docket and the delivery staff will notify you of these items. You will have the opportunity to accept or refuse these substituted items and will be refunded for any items you do not accept and return to the delivery staff. Substituted items will be charged at the price of the substitute item in the Store on the day of delivery. Customer Quotas may apply on promotional lines.
They said that customers were not charged for products when they are ordered, only when they have been picked for despatch to the customer. They said the customer would not have been charged for this product if it had not been available.
They said that they were very sorry that the complainant was not able to purchase stock at SuperValu Ranelagh and they understood that this was a location where the offer was fully taken up very quickly.
Complaint Not Upheld.
The Complaints Committee considered the details of the complaint and the advertisers’ response.
The Committee noted that Post 1 on the advertisers’ own Instagram account had indicated that there was limited availability stating “when they’re gone, they’re gone”, while the other two posts had referred to the fact that the promotion was available for 48 hours only.
The Committee noted that the complainant did not consider that the advertisers had sufficient levels of stock to meet the demand created by the advertising of the promotional offer. The Committee examined the information provided to the ASAI, on a confidential basis, of the spend on the campaign and while the Committee noted that the promotion was advertised through various channels, they noted that the spend was significantly lower than that of other wine promotions. The Committee also noted that pre-sales of the product from stores that had sold the product previously had been used to make sales forecasts, however, the consumer demand for the product had been unprecedented.
The Complaints Committee noted the Terms and Conditions regarding online purchasing, no stock guarantees and the policy on product substitutions. They considered that it was likely that, with the prevalence of online grocery shopping, consumers would be reasonably familiar with these concepts. They also noted that the Instagram posts did not include any distinction between in-store and online purchasing and had referred to the fact that the offer was for a limited time only.
While the Committee appreciated the complainant’s disappointment at not being able to avail of the offer, having examined the information provided to the ASAI, the Committee considered that the advertisers had made a reasonable estimate of the likely response. While the Committee noted that the advertisers had engaged in a marketing campaign for the promotion, they noted that the campaign, while using media not always used in other similar campaigns, was significantly smaller than other wine campaigns. Taking all the circumstances into account, the Committee did not consider that the advertising was in breach of the Code on the grounds raised and accordingly, did not uphold the complaint.
No further action required; however, the Complaints Committee reminded the advertisers to take account of the sales of this product line for any future promotions.