A string of financial firms have featured in the latest batch of complaints lodged with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the wake of a successful action against AMP in April.
In April this year, the ASA upheld a complaint – by Hayley Robertson and financial adviser John Cliffe – that AMP breached advertising standards with its ‘Is it me?’ KiwiSaver radio campaign.
The unbranded ‘Is it me?’ ad urged listeners to check if they were in a default KiwiSaver scheme via a link that only included AMP member information.
Cliffe and Robertson both alleged the ad was misleading, which the ASA agreed with at first hearing and upheld following an AMP appeal.
In its decision the ASA says the AMP ad “had the appearance of a financial advocacy campaign by an independent source, rather than an advertisement encouraging people to check their fund status and then being presented with an AMP call to action”.
“The Complaints Board said the advertisement had not been prepared with a high standard of social responsibility, taking into account context, medium, audience and product and unanimously agreed the advertisement was in breach of Principle 1, Principle 2 and Guideline 2(a) of the Code for Financial Advertising,” the decision says.
While the ‘Is it me?’ ad was already off-air at the time, AMP said it wanted a ruling as further campaigns were planned.
Of the eight ASA complaints around the time of the AMP ruling, seven involved financial firms, namely: AA Insurance; Real Finance; Partners Life; Momentum Life; ANZ; BNZ; and, ASB.
All of the complaints were either not upheld or deemed as groundless by the ASA complaints body with the latter reason applying to ads by:
- Momentum Life – where the complainant “was concerned the advertisement gave the appearance the couple were naked, and this was inappropriate viewing for daytime television. Three other complainants shared similar views”;
- ASB – where the complaint centred on whether “the advertisement was a parody of the Lord’s prayer and offensive and demeaning to the Christian community”; and,
- BNZ – where the complaint said the ad implied “a puppy is an affordable present which could be misleading given the on-going costs of dog ownership”.
Partners Life, AA Insurance, Real Finance and ANZ were all dismissed at ASA hearings.
Like the AMP ad, the ANZ complaint also centred on KiwiSaver – this time a TV campaign promoting the virtues of active management.
The full complaint, lodged by a S Viskovic, said:
“My objection is that being lazy in investing gives greater rewards than lying on a couch or being active in investing.
In fact when buying index funds you get the research of active managers for free – inasmuch as they still control the majority of funds into financial markets.
Active management cannot beat the market whilst it is the market.
If ANZ kiwisaver funds, net of fees have consistently beaten passive funds then the ad is accurate otherwise it is fraudulent in that it knowingly misrepresents the investment outcome of their funds.
At some point, if everyone switched to passive funds active management would become useful again. That would mean a much smaller funds management industry.
ANZ should come to terms with that and should not be allowed to misinform the public and lie about the prospects for their clients/investors.”
However, ANZ countered on a number of points, including a statement that: “By definition active managers will have different returns to the market index. Some, or many, active managers will beat the market. Some may not. It is not accurate to say an active manager cannot beat the market.”
The ASA Commercial Approval Bureau (CAB) took care not to get involved in the long-running active/passive war in its ruling that the ANZ ad (featuring a couch and biscuits) was merely a “simple metaphor, without exaggerated or implied claims of financial performance”.
“For details of the service itself, CAB will defer to the advertiser’s expertise,” the ruling says.