HomeInsightsCommittees of Advertising Practice publish quick guide to comparative advertising

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CAP sets out four key things to think about before running a comparative ad:

  1. What claim is being made?

This should be thought about carefully. CAP says that if the claim is ambiguous advertisers risk misleading consumers. When making an objective claim advertisers should, as always, make sure they hold documentary evidence to support it before running the ad.

Unless it is obviously “puffery”, the ASA is likely to regard superiority and top parity claims as objective. Superiority claims are those that claim to be better than competitors, such as “No 1” or “market leading”, whereas top parity claims are those that state that an advertiser is one of the best, for example, “just as strong as any other”. Depending on the context, describing a product as the “best” could potentially be regarded as subjective. However, the ASA has previously upheld “best” claims where it considered that, in context, they would be understood as objective.

  1. Is it a comparison with an identifiable competitor?

Comparisons with identifiable competitors are subject to specific rules (CAP Code rules 3.33 to 3.37). Advertisers do not need to explicitly name the competitor or product being compared with to be subject to the rules on comparisons with “identifiable” competitors. Whether a competitor or its products are identifiable will obviously depend on the ad, claims, audience, context and nature of the market in which the advertiser operates.

As an example, “leading” claims are, by their nature, likely to be seen as a comparison with all competitors, which will mean they are likely to be identifiable, as are claims like “UK’s most effective” and “UK’s cheapest”.

  • Are the right things being compared?

Comparisons with identifiable competitors must compare products meeting the same need or intended for the same purpose (CAP Code rule 3.34).

Essentially, the products being compared must display a sufficient degree of interchangeability for consumers. Examples of products that it could potentially be acceptable to compare under this rule include: branded and non-branded versions of the same underlying product or organic and non-organic produce. However, advertisers must always ensure that the basis of the claim is clear and that the ad is not likely to mislead consumers materially.

  1. Is the comparison verifiable?

Comparisons with identifiable competitors must objectively compare one or more material, relevant, verifiable and representative feature of those products, which may include price (CAP Code rule 3.35). A competitor does not need to be named to be identifiable, and the ASA has ruled against ads that did not include verifiability information where a competitor was not explicitly named.

For the comparison to be considered verifiable, advertisers must include enough information in the ad to enable consumers to fully understand and check the accuracy of comparative claims. In order to ensure that this is the case, an ad should include, for example, information about what the comparative claim is based on and (in some cases) a signpost to where consumers can find this information.

To access the guide and for further information, click here.