Watchdog bans 'eco town' ad for simulating editorial

LONDON - The Advertising Standards Authority has pulled a press feature, by East Hampshire District Council, which promoted the benefits of 'eco-town' status for Borden, after the town's area action group made a complaint.

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Bordon Area Action Group felt the four-page wraparound ad feature misleadingly paraded itself as the front of a newspaper, thus disguising its true advertising intention. It also questioned whether the claim "Your energy bills will be cheaper…" could be substantiated.

East Hampshire District Council said the ad had been published in accordance with the publisher’s specifications, and used different layout and typography from the publication’s usual style. It did not believe readers would confuse the ad feature with editorial content.

It said it would ensure that future ad features would be clearly labelled as such.

It further supplied evidence which showed the potential for achieving energy savings of 80 to 90 per cent. However, it said it would not use the ad again. The ASA noted the evidence and considered readers would understand the claim in the context of the efforts to improve energy efficiency in the area.

The ASA noted the ad feature carried the newspaper masthead and felt there was nothing to distinguish the ad from the editorial content of the newspaper. Therefore, readers could easily have confused the two.

The watchdog accepted EHDC’s assertion that it would address this in future. However, on this point it found the ad in breach of the CAP Code. The ad feature must not appear again in its current form.