UK watchdog finds AJ Bell ad not in breach of social responsibility rules
The UK Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has found that a piece of advertisement by AJ Bell did not violate social responsibility rules. The relevant ruling was published today.
The ad at the heart of the case is a TV ad for AJ Bell, seen in February 2022. Large text appeared at the start of the ad with a voice-over and which said, “AJ Bell is on a mission to make investing easier.” The ad included a number of different characters, including Alice and Debra.
A young woman was shown sat on a sofa between a man and a woman. The voice-over said, “Alice has never invested before but is now closer to buying her first home. Thankfully.” A woman was then shown doing yoga in front of a man reading a newspaper. The voice-over stated, “And Debra is set to retire with plans of a yoga retreat. Which is news to Dave.”
Dave was shown looking at the camera and then lifting the paper up to cover his face. The voice-over said, “Sorry mate. This is investing for all. AJ Bell.”
The text “The value of your investments can go down as well as up and you may get back less than you originally invested. AJ Bell does not provide advice” appeared at the bottom of the screen part-way through.
The complainant, who believed the ad implied that investing was likely to result in unrealistically substantial and fast returns, challenged whether the ad was irresponsible.
The BCAP Code stated that advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society.
The ad portrayed a number of individuals at different stages in their lives using the advertiser’s investment products. The ASA noted that the ad contained on-screen text that said investments could go down as well as up and consumers could receive less than was originally invested. The text therefore highlighted the risks of investing and made clear that investors were not guaranteed to make profits.
One of the investors in the ad was Debra, who was described as being close to retirement and who planned to purchase a yoga retreat. The ad did not mention how long Debra had invested for, but due to her imminent retirement, she could have been investing for some time.
Further to that, while the ad did imply the investment product was a contributary factor into purchasing the retreat, it did not state that her investment was her only source of funding and her approaching retirement suggested she had been in work, meaning she could have had another source of funding, in addition to the investment product, for the retreat.
A second investor, Alice, was shown sitting on a sofa between a man and a woman. Alice looked uncomfortable and said, “Thankfully” when the voice-over said she was closer to buying her first home. The implication was that Alice lived at home with her parents, and she was looking forward to owning her first property, in part funded by her investment.
ASA understood that the product Alice had taken out was a Lifetime ISA, but this was not clear in the ad and so viewers would interpret her experience as referring to investing generally.
Nevertheless, ASA noted that the ad gave no figures as to what Alice had earned from her investment or state when she had started investing. Further, while the implication from the ad was that Alice was using her investment to help with her purchase, it did not state that the investment alone was paying for the property.
Finally, by specifically stating that Alice was “closer” to buying her first property, the ad signalled that while Alice’s investment had appreciated, she was not yet at the point of her investment goal and still could be some distance from buying a home or raising a deposit. That was further supported by the absence of any indications in the ad that she was imminently moving out.
The ad therefore did not state or imply that either Debra or Alice had made significant returns quickly from investing or that any gains were solely responsible for any significant purchases. For those reasons, ASA concluded the ad was not irresponsible.
No further action is necessary, the watchdog said.