Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow, has always had a passion for fighting injustice.
In 2012 she started a blog sharing stories of tackling companies with poor customer service. It grew into advising consumers and then businesses. This was due to her experience, skills and having the ear of thousands of consumers and knowing what they want to experience in complaint handling and customer service.
Author of two best-selling books, reports and a wealth of media coverage, Helen helps directors and senior staff to improve complaint handling through understanding customer perspectives and through challenge so as to gain and retain customers.
Awards abound for all sorts of things. You name it, there’s probably an award for it! Frequently these awards are paid for. Many consumers don’t realise that often when they see “Award winning” on a product or a website that businesses have paid to enter and compete. Sometimes businesses even just get an award that no-one else has entered! Both awards suppliers and “winners” could be considered as misleading consumers into believing that their businesses beat other similar products.
It would appear that awards companies may be misleading businesses too. “Product of the Year” is a huge nationwide awards programme which offers wide media coverage for winners. The winner pays an eye-watering £18,000 to receive their award! Even to be shortlisted or entered into the research programme costs £4,000!
The Awards website claimed that the media coverage for winners was worth “Over £800,000 worth of advertising”. It then listed some examples of media coverage included. I doubted that this was worth anywhere near the £800,000 quoted and so I complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) because I felt that this was a misleading claim.
The awards claimed that the public relations impact is worth in excess of £800,000! They have a partnership with The Sun and say that it’s all “free publicity”.
The ASA in the first instance made Product of the Year aware that a member of the public challenged whether the claim could be substantiated, and reminded them that they must hold sufficient evidence to substantiate the claim. It issued an “Advice Notice” which is where it considers there are potential problems under their advertising rules but not so significant as to warrant a full formal investigation. The ASA evaluates the matter against its Prioritisation Principles to decide what resources it should commit or what activity it should undertake.
The ASA stated that if further evidence could be provided it would investigate further. So I sent the following:
“They have listed 7 publications so that would be at least £117,285.74 for each publication, that would mean a spend of £9,523.80 per month per publication – that seems very highly unlikely!”
I mentioned a tabloid with a 78k rate card for a double page spread and it would be expected that this would be reduced as full amount is rarely paid. (This means that the maximum it would cost a company for a double page spread in a tabloid would be 78k). In addition it would be for the one product, here it would be shared with others and would not be a double page solely for one winner. NetMums and others ONLY do the competition where products are simply listed. E.g. NetMums Product of the Year coverage Listings for adverts like this show less than 3k for these online outlets.
So, the ASA investigated further and Product of the Year agreed to remove the claim. The decision by the ASA was announced as informally resolved today (20 October 2021).
Look out for my investigation into pay to play awards piece coming next week.
If you would like to know about ways to attract consumers and retain loyalty that don’t involve paying for awards please see The Complaining Cow services for businesses.
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