Advertising Standards Authority: Michelin advertorial on Telegraph website 'not obviously identifiable as such'

An advertorial for Michelin tyres has been banned in its original form for claiming that the premium brand is safer in wet conditions than budget competitors.

The Advertising Standards Authority also ruled that the page and embedded video on telegraph.co.uk was not obviously identifiable to readers as an advert.

The advertorial, seen in August, compared Michelin's tyres with an unspecified budget brand, concluding that premium tyres improved safety and performance in wet conditions over the cheaper version.

The page included statements such as "performance driving news" and "As part of the Telegraph's recent Performance Driving Day, in association with Michelin".

A reader, who believed the ad implied Michelin tyres would always outperform budget alternatives, despite some budget versions having a higher braking performance rating than some made by Michelin, complained that the ad was misleading.

The ASA also investigated whether the ad was obviously identifiable as such.

Michelin said racing driver Ben Collins, who carried out the test, gave an unscripted explanation of his experience and "represented a genuine and honest expression of his opinion of the performance of the tyres".

The company added that the video and text did not attempt to imply that their tyres would always outperform budget tyres, and it would be unreasonable for anyone to extrapolate the results of the test more extensively.

Michelin added that the clear prominence of its logo, brand name and sponsorship of the featured Performance Driving Day and the advertorial clearly signified that the content was an ad.

The Telegraph said the navigational "crumb trail" above the article locating it within the website showed it was within the "sponsored" section, while the phrase "in association with Michelin", the Michelin logo on the right-hand side of the page and use of the word "sponsored" in the URL all showed it was as ad.

The ASA noted that Collins began the video by stating, "I'm here… to make a comparison between budget and premium tyres, to see if something more expensive can actually make you safer whilst you're driving."

It said: "We noted that the test was only shown in relation to one budget tyre, but that Michelin had provided no evidence to demonstrate that this was representative of budget tyres generally and that the results were consequently applicable to this group of products.

"We therefore concluded that the comparison had not been adequately substantiated and that the ad breached the Code."

The ASA also found that although the ad featured several references to sponsorship and the article being "in association with' Michelin", they were not enough to identify the content specifically as an ad.

The ruling said: "The ad featured several references to sponsorship and the article being 'in association with' Michelin and, although the ASA considered that these may have served to show that a financial arrangement was in place, they were insufficient to identify the content specifically as an ad (as opposed to, for example, material that had been financially sponsored, but over which the creator retained editorial control) and that Michelin had therefore retained editorial control in the form of the right to veto the content if they were unsatisfied.

"We noted that the video featured Michelin branding, including in the 'still' before the video was selected to play, and considered that this was similarly insufficient to make clear the nature of the relationship between the advertiser and the publisher.

"We acknowledged that a heading stated 'in association with Michelin', but considered that, because it appeared to the far right-hand side of the web page above listings for other driving-related articles, with a line dividing that part of the page from the advertorial, it was not clear that the heading related to the ad.

"Moreover, as stated above, we did not consider that the label in itself made clear the commercial nature of the content. For these reasons, we concluded that the ad was not obviously identifiable as such and that it therefore breached the Code."

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in the form complained about, adding: "We told Michelin to ensure that they held suitable substantiation for future comparative claims and that their ads were obviously identifiable as marketing communications, including by using labels other than 'sponsored' or 'in association with' for advertorials and ad features."

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