An ad for Marks & Spencer claiming customers could buy their Christmas dinner for £10 cheaper than the year before has been banned after it replaced a fresh turkey with a frozen one and a high-end cake with a cheaper alternative.
A national press ad seen on December 19 said: “We’re £10 cheaper than 2016**”, noting the claim was based on a report by the Good Housekeeping Institute (GHI), and adding: “The only supermarket where Christmas dinner costs less than last year*.”
At the bottom of the page was small print stating that the ad was based on an independent survey by Good Housekeeping of comparable products for a Christmas dinner for eight people.
The small print noted that a frozen stock basted whole turkey had replaced 2016’s fresh whole British turkey and a Classic Christmas Cake replaced the previous Collection Christmas Cake.
Two people complained that the “£10 cheaper” claim was misleading because of the replacement items.
M&S said the GHI carried out the analysis to determine the overall basket price and make the comparison between the 2016 and 2017 prices.
Explaining the differences in products, M&S said it did not have a frozen turkey available to submit in 2016 but the GHI survey specifically required a frozen turkey in 2017, and it was able to offer a Classic Christmas Cake at a better value price than the Collection Christmas Cake they sold in 2016.
It said it addressed the two differences in the ad because it considered that some consumers might not consider fresh and frozen turkeys and the two types of Christmas cakes to be exactly like-for-like products.
Upholding the complaints, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said consumers would interpret the claim to mean that they could buy the same type and quality of traditional Christmas food items that M&S offered in 2016 for £10 less in 2017.
It said: “Because the ad suggested that the M&S Christmas 2017 dinner included the same type and quality of food items as the 2016 deal, when that was not the case, we concluded that the claim ‘We’re £10 cheaper than 2016’ was likely to mislead consumers.”
It also found that the ad’s comparative claim that M&S was the “only supermarket where Christmas dinner cost less than last year” was also misleading.
An M&S spokesman said: “We’re disappointed by the ruling, we made it clear it was a Good Housekeeping survey, we followed their criteria to the letter and we believe we made the differences between the 2016 and 2017 baskets clear.
“Regardless, we will, of course, abide by the ruling.”