In case you missed it, last week CAP updated its guidance on the use of 'qualifications' of claims, which includes disclaimers (aka 'small print' or 'footnotes').
Qualifications are essential to provide more information which is material to the consumer understanding of the primary claim and/or the marketing communication as a whole. Qualifications are used within ads to contextualise, clarify or expand on the meaning of a primary claim, or to provide substantiation to support it, or to explain important limitations or conditions which apply. However, qualifications must not contradict the claim to which it relates.
It is important to note that qualifications must be presented clearly with an appropriate level of prominence, but can be presented in different ways depending on the context/layout of the ad.
When it comes to the prominence/placement of the qualification, the latest guidance bring back the 'qualifying ladder' approach, which had fallen out of fashion in recent years.
The ‘qualifying ladder’ is a useful tool for marketers to understand the ASA’s likely expectations of the necessary prominence of qualifications. The guidance states that most claims in marketing communications fall into one of four categories from the most to the least prominent:
- body copy; and,
The guidance states that: "In the event of a complaint, marketers should be able to justify to the ASA why they consider a particular level of prominence (in other words, the relationship between primary claim and its qualification) appropriate to ensure that consumers are not likely to be misled by a primary claim. Where there is doubt, CAP advises that a qualification be moved up the ladder."
And in relation to qualifications which are too far from the main claim: "If a qualification is at least two “steps” less prominent than the primary claim, the use of an asterisk will normally allow a marketer to account for one “step” of the “qualifying ladder”. For example, if a primary headline claim requires qualifying in the body copy, marketers can instead place the qualification in a footnote linked to the headline by an asterisk."
The guidance can be found here.
Footnotes and other qualifications using small text should be clearly legible to the average consumer to which a marketing communication is directed reading it once, from a reasonable distance and at a reasonable speed.