A radio ad for the Home Office's European Union resettlement programme has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for being misleading after it claimed: "All you need is your passport or ID card and to complete an online form."
One complainant challenged whether that claim was accurate, because they understood that in some cases claimants would need to provide proof of address covering the previous five years.
The Home Office defended the ad, which was created by FCB Inferno and first appeared in April, and said it accurately described the key elements of the application process.
It said that during the process no person was asked to provide proof of address and that the ad was part of a wider campaign promoting awareness of the scheme. It was not possible to include all aspects of the application process in a short ad – something that, the Home Office said, it believed listeners would appreciate.
But the ASA investigated and upheld the complaint. The ad watchdog said that listeners would infer from the spot that they'd need only a passport or ID card to complete the entire process. Furthermore, it said that while proof of address may not be needed in the application process, it understood that in 27% of cases applicants where at some stage required to provide further documentation than ID alone.
"The ad must not be broadcast again in the form complained about. We told the Home Office to ensure they made sufficiently clear that some applicants to the EU Settlement Scheme would need to provide additional documents beyond their passport or ID card," the ASA said in its ruling.
This is the second time FCB Inferno has found itself in hot water over its work for the Home Office. Earlier this month, it was forced to defend its role in developing the highly controversial chicken-box knife-crime campaign, which has been criticised as offensive, out of touch and racist.
Writing in Campaign, however, FCB Inferno's executive vice-president Sharon Jiggins defended the "#Knifefree" campaign, stating that the creative idea was "born out of extensive feedback from our young audiences across the country".
A Home Office spokesman said: "We completely disagree with ASA’s decision because the campaign was factual and complied with all necessary clearance processes for radio advertising.
"The campaign has had a positive impact and encouraged more than one million successful applications so far.
"The Scheme is free, straightforward and EU citizens and their family members have plenty of time to apply. All they need to apply is their passport or ID card and to complete an online form."