Cell C rapped over knuckles for failing to remove claim on ads

02 June 2016 - 20:10 By Deneesha Pillay

Cell C’s failure to remove advertising materials which display an unqualified reference‚ saw the company receive a stern warning from the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa (ASASA) this week.On April 14‚ the ASA Directorate ruled in favour of Vodacom which complained that the ‘Widest Network Coverage’ reference used by the respondent (Cell C) was “misleading and in breach of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code”.Cell C was then instructed to withdraw the claim on all advertising material with immediate effect.Following the ruling‚ on May 18‚ Vodacom submitted a complaint that Cell C had not yet removed “its offending billboard from the prominent junction of Main Road and William Nicol Drive in Bryanston and near the Cape Town International Airport”‚ according to ASASA.“The complainant added that the offending billboard was also displayed on the N1 North‚ between the 14th Avenue and Malibongwe Drive off-ramp. In addition‚ the unqualified reference to offering ‘Widest Network Coverage’ was still being used by the respondent in its stores in Tygervalley and Canal Walk in Cape Town.”While Vodacom submitted that the continuous use of the reference constituted a breach of the ASA Directorate ruling given “the lack of any evidence of a concerted effort to comply”‚ Cell C in response submitted that “the ruling had far-reaching effects; involving many different advertising mediums”.The ASA Directorate thereafter ruled that while the instruction to withdraw did not immediately follow receipt of the ruling‚ it acknowledged that the campaign and its ultimate withdrawal/amendment would require substantial coordination in order to determine how best to comply.“In any event‚ the instruction to withdraw appears to have been issued within a week‚ and therefore within the deadlines stipulated in the Code insofar as outdoor advertising is concerned.“Weighing up the above factors‚ which includes different mediums and roll-outs‚ the Directorate is satisfied that the respondent does not ex facie appear to have deliberately disregarded the ruling or acted in a manner that shows contempt for the instructions to withdraw its advertising.“It is not clear from the response why the respondent only followed up on compliance on 13 May 2016 when the appropriate deadline for withdrawal would be around 28 April 2016.“There is also nothing in the correspondence submitted to the ASA to suggest that the instruction to change or remove existing material was issued before 21 April 2016.”Despite having breached the original ruling‚ and therefore a breach of Clause 15 of the Procedural Guide‚ the Directorate stated that the information submitted by Cell C “suggests a concerted effort to comply‚” and not a callous disregard as Vodacom appears to perceive it.The Directorate concluded that it saw no reason to impose any additional sanctions on Cell C for the time being‚ other than the immediate removal of any and all material that might not have been amended yet.However it stated that it “wishes to include a strong cautionary note to the respondent to take all steps necessary to ensure immediate compliance.”..

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