The Advertising Standards Authority has rejected a complaint about the television commercial celebrating the 250th anniversary of Lloyds Bank. The ad featured the iconic black horse running through a variety of scenes and ended with the voice over stating Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have been and always will be by your side and a super reading By your side for over 250 years
A law firm acting for Noel Edmonds, host of Deal or No Deal, as well as an unspecified number of other victims of the fraudulent behaviour by employees of HBOS prior to its acquisition by Lloyds, challenged whether the ad was misleading, based on their objections to the action taken subsequently by Lloyds to address the fraud.
The adjudication is interesting because it is one of the very rare occasions where the ASA has concluded that an advertising claim, such as by your side is mere puff. In other words, a claim that is not intended to be taken literally and is not capable of objective substantiation.
The ASA characterised it as a general brand promotion ad and in that context, the details of the HBOS fraud case were not material information that had to be included to prevent consumers from being misled.
There must be a question as to whether the ASA should have investigated the complaint in the first case. Did they feel compelled to do so, in spite of their prioritisation principles, which surely would have mitigated against a formal investigation? There is no way of knowing, but it is helpful to have a published decision on the interpretation of puffery and Lloyds Bank probably welcome the opportunity to vindicate their position.
We considered viewers would understand the ad to be a general brand promotion, and would understand the claim “By your side” to be advertising puffery, not a claim that would be taken literally, or be seen as requiring objective substantiation.