A TV advert by restaurant delivery giant Deliveroo has been banned for breaching advertising regulations. The segment, titled “Food Freedom,” which aired on TV screens in March, has been judged to have misled the public. In it, various, surreal food delivery scenarios — including an order arriving with an astronaut in space — play out.
As first reported by the BBC, the breach, notwithstanding the very convention of exaggeration, concerns a suggestion that Deliveroo could deliver anywhere in the U.K.
Deliveroo, at some level, is right to contend that such a judgment widens the disconnect between creative license (and deliberate metaphorical hyperbole) and practical reality. Do consumers really find it disappointing to learn that, in fact, it is not yet possible to order a bowl of Wagamama ramen while orbiting the earth in a spacecraft?
Probably not, but rules are rules, and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) — responding to 22 complaints — judged the specific claim that “Order what you want; where you want; when you want it” was “absolute” in nature and therefore “likely to mislead” by wrongly implying food delivery “was unrestricted throughout the UK.”
Knowing that it is compelled to comply with regulations, Deliveroo, which had the advert cleared by regulatory specialists, thought it had pre-empted such charges: Its defence was three-fold:
- It states that “some restrictions apply, obviously” in text on the screen.
- It “believed that was further reinforced by the exaggerated scenes which included deliveries in space and during a car chase.”
- Lastly, potential customers could check the app to “see whether their area was covered without incurring any cost and before making any purchasing decisions.”
The ASA said it acknowledged the contention, but it was insufficient:
“We considered the very clearly fantastical nature of the settings – for example, in space and a car chase – was likely to lead viewers to interpret the qualification to mean that the restrictions applied to places where it would be ridiculous to expect to be able to access the service, rather than that there were certain areas of the country that were excluded,” they said.
“Because we considered the ad suggested delivery was unrestricted throughout the UK when that was not the case, we concluded that it was likely to mislead,” they concluded.
The reality though, given the advert aired six months ago, is that the campaign was nearing expiration anyway. “Our food freedom campaign was due to cease airing imminently, [so] the ASA’s decision will not significantly affect the business,” a Deliveroo spokesperson told Eater.
And although it’s a slap on the wrist for the ever-expanding delivery company (it has been instructed not to use the same marketing messaging again), it’s another bundle of free press. Indeed it’s a tailor-made opportunity for it to re-state a core message: If, unfortunately, we do not yet serve your area, then we could well be serving it soon.
A statement said: “We know some people will be disappointed to hear that Deliveroo can’t yet deliver to outer space and is still to reach some parts of the U.K. We are, however, excited to be expanding rapidly across the UK and reaching more customers than ever before.”
The company is currently active in 200 towns and cities across the country; its stated aim is to soon reach “50 percent of the population,” hoovering up as many mealtimes as it can.