The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority has released its Annual Report 2007 (PDF).
The ASA says it dealt with record numbers of complaints about environmental claims as advertisers increasingly sought to promote their ‘green’ credentials. Complaints about environmental claims more than doubled year on year with 556 complaints about 408 ads.
Claims that products and services were carbon “neutral” or “zero” or “negative” were particularly open to challenge, as were statements about CO2 emissions or absolute claims such as “100% recycled” or “wholly sustainable.”
Claims about carbon emissions and green tariffs were among those most likely to confuse consumers, but terms such as “sustainable” and “food miles” were also misunderstood.
During the year, a series of rulings by the ASA set benchmarks for all advertisers to follow, according to the report. Shell’s press ad depicting industrial chimneys emitting flowers instead of smoke was ruled to be misleading because it implied that Shell used at least the majority of their waste CO2 to grow flowers, whereas the actual amount was a very small proportion when compared to the global activities of Shell.
Another ruling, against Ryanair, judged the claim in one of the airline’s ads that aviation accounts for just 2% of emissions to be misleading.
Lexus’ headline claim in a magazine ad “High Performance. Low Emissions. Zero Guilt” was ruled misleading because the text in the ad which clarified the claim was not prominent enough and the claim “Zero Guilt” implied the car caused ittle or no harm to the environment.